How much do you really know about Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?
PMS is a set of symptoms related to menstruation that typically begin one to two weeks before the period and end about the time the menstrual cycle begins. Almost all women experience at least one PMS symptom during their monthly cycles. Most symptoms are relatively mild or moderate and controllable with over-the-counter or prescription medications or minor lifestyle adjustments.
- FACT: PMS can cause physical discomfort, including cramps, headaches and bloating, but there are other symptoms. More than 200 symptoms are associated with PMS. In addition to physical symptoms, many women experience psychological and behavioral symptoms like fatigue, cravings, mood swings and anxiety.
- FACT: Nutrition matters. While no single food has been linked to PMS relief, diet can influence symptoms. Fill up on whole grains, fruits and vegetables and minimize salt—sodium contributes to bloating.
- FACT: PMS may cause sleep difficulties. PMS occurs during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle—the time between ovulation (the day your ovary releases an egg) and the first day of your period. Researchers think insomnia during this time may be related to a rise in progesterone that ensues with ovulation. Track your menstrual cycle and sleep difficulties on a calendar to see if there’s a connection.
- FACT: PMS has a strong genetic component. Other PMS contributors include smoking and high stress levels.
- MYTH: Girls age 18 and younger have PMS more often than older women.The truth is that females of any age who are menstruating can experience PMS, but women in their late 20s to early 40s are more likely to have symptoms.
- MYTH: PMS symptoms are no big deal.While many PMS symptoms are mild and easily controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers, others are more intense and may be cause for concern. For instance, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)—an extreme form of PMS— is a recognized mental disorder that affects approximately three to eight percent of women. PMDD can cause anger, depression, hopelessness and even thoughts of suicide and can impact a woman’s ability to function. PMDD and severe PMS symptoms influenced by fluctuating hormone levels are treatable with prescription medications, including antidepressants and birth control pills.
- MYTH: Exercise has no effect on the emotional symptoms of PMS.PMS may cause some women to have low energy, which discourages activity, but making the effort to keep up a regular workout routine can help. Women who work out regularly report fewer mood-related symptoms and less severe physical effects of PMS. This is probably due to feel-good chemicals called endorphins that the body releases during exercise, triggering positive emotions.
- MYTH: Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a symptom of PMS.TSS is a rare condition and is not related to PMS, but it can be period related—superabsorbent tampons left in the vagina for more than eight hours can foster the bacteria responsible for TSS.
Antidepressant drugs and relaxation techniques can work in dealing with PMS-related depression and anxiety. Calcium supplements may also reduce the effects of the symptoms.
Although PMS is manageable and not severe in many women, more severe forms do occur, which need immediate attention. Some women do report debilitating, disabling symptoms during PMS. Women may also feel physically and psychologically different pre-menstrually. Sometimes, it can be so physically debilitating that they cannot go to work. And, doctors say that many women lost relationships because of PMS. You should consult a doctor if any PMS symptoms interfere with your daily activities. Doctors may prescribe antidepressants, birth control pills or diuretics to alleviate PMS or suggest lifestyle changes like cutting back on sodium or exercising more frequently. In cases of extreme and chronic pain or emotional disruption, your doctor may test for underlying gynecologic or emotional issues.