PMS - Premenstrual Syndrome

PMS is a complicated condition suffered by many women to a greater or lesser degree for up to 2 weeks before they menstruate. This condition is characterized by a set of hormonal changes and some women even require medical treatment for their mood and/or behavioral changes. PMS is the source of many a joke by a stand up comic but to the sufferer, the condition can often be far from a joke.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

It is said that PMS can give rise to over 150 different symptoms such as anxiety, depression, crying spells, headache, fatigue, irritability, panic attacks, tension lack of coordination, altered libido, a decrease in the ability to perform either at work or socially, fluid retention, constipation, painful joints, backache, abdominal cramping, heart palpitations, bloating and weight gain. And that is only about 20 symptoms. It is estimated that at least 85% of all menstruating women have at least one PMS symptom as part of their monthly cycle while a small percentage (about 5%) have a more severe form of PMS called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

Although women most frequently complain about headaches and fatigues during those days before the onset of the next menstrual period, their symptoms may vary from month to month and some months there may be no symptoms at all.,

Although the causes of PMS are not 100% clear, the condition is linked to the changing hormones during the menstrual cycle and some women are affected more than others. The female hormone estrogen is a strong factor here. Estrogen starts to rise after menstruation and peaks around mid cycle. It then drops rapidly only to slowly rise and then fall again, all in the time before menstruation. Estrogen has the tendency to hold fluid and with increasing estrogen, there is extra fluid retention with women complaining about weight gains of up to 5 pounds at this time. Although stress and emotional problems are not the cause of PMS, they can aggravate the condition.

Although it is thought that heredity may play a part, symptoms can vary between sisters or between a mother and her daughters. Some women experience a burst of energy prior to the worst symptoms of their PMS, where they tend to go on a cleaning mission and can operate with less sleep than usual.

What is the treatment for PMS?

There are several ways in which you can make changes in your lifestyle to help you feel better if PMS is a problem for you:

o A daily multivitamin supplement that includes at least 400 micrograms of folic acid plus a calcium supplement including Vitamin D should help with several PMS symptoms.
o Regular exercise – aerobics, jogging, cycling, walking or swimming are particularly beneficial.
o A healthy diet including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
o The avoidance of salt, fats, sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol.
o If you change to six small meals at regularly 3 hour intervals, this helps to maintain a steady blood glucose level while avoiding energy highs and lows.
o Plenty of rest and sleep – a good 8 hours per night is recommended.
o No smoking.
o Learn to relax and unwind.
o Use an over-the-counter pain reliever if that helps.

If you feel that none of these suggestions is helping, then it is wise to seek medical advice as there are prescription medications that your doctor can give you to help the condition. Keep notes of all the different symptoms you are experiencing together with their duration and severity during the days leading up to your menstruation so you have a written report to discuss with your doctor.

Remember PMS is a real condition of which your healthcare provider is only too aware. Sometimes you have to make sure your family understands as well.