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The Menstrual Flow  

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Definition  

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a disorder marked by physical and emotional symptoms. It affects women 1-2 weeks before the beginning of their menstrual period.

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Causes  

While the exact cause is not known, PMS may be related to certain factors (environmental, metabolic, or behavioral) that may make a woman more vulnerable to the hormonal changes that occur during menstruation.

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Risk Factors  

PMS most often occurs in women aged 25-40 years. Other factors that may increase your chance of PMS include:

  • Going off birth control pills
  • Major life stress
  • Depression
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Symptoms  

PMS may cause:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diminished self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Appetite changes, such as sugar and/or salt cravings, or overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Headache
  • Breast swelling and tenderness
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Muscle pain

Symptoms usually improve when bleeding starts (menstrual period).

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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done.

You will be asked to keep a detailed record of your monthly physical and emotional symptoms. If caused by PMS, these symptoms will likely occur 1-2 weeks before your menstrual period. You may have PMS if symptoms occur at the same phase of the menstrual cycle each month.

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Treatment  

Treatment options include:

Stress Management  

Stress may be managed through lifestyle changes. Relaxation techniques, deep breathing, massage, music, and hot baths can also help reduce stress.

Dietary Changes  

Dietary changes may be helpful. Your doctor may recommend that you decrease your intake of salt, sugar, and caffeine. Eating small, frequent meals may also help.

Vitamins and Minerals  

The following vitamin and mineral supplements might reduce PMS symptoms:

  • Vitamin E may reduce breast tenderness
  • Calcium may decrease bloating, depression, and aches
  • Magnesium may decrease pain, fluid retention, and improve mood
  • Manganese may help control symptoms of menstrual pain

Talk to your doctor before you take any supplements.

Regular Exercise  

Exercising throughout the week may help to reduce your symptoms.

Medications  

Medications to treat PMS include:

  • Diuretics to reduce bloating and fluid retention.
  • Pain relievers to relieve cramps, headaches, and muscle aches
  • Birth control pills to reduce physical symptoms
  • Antidepressants to reduce emotional symptoms

Psychotherapy  

Women with severe PMS symptoms may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. Therapy may reduce negative emotions and enhance problem-solving skills in relationships. It may also manage obstacles, frustrations, and discomfort.

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Prevention  

To help reduce your chance of getting PMS, take the following steps: