Premenstrual Syndrome

Published: August 08, 2020

What is Premenstrual Syndrome?

Premenstrual Syndrome (also known as PMS) is a condition that occurs in many women each month, usually from around 2 weeks before their period. It is accompanied by a host of psychological and physical symptoms, with the potential to make day to day life very difficult for the sufferer.

The severity of PMS varies from woman to woman, but it is thought that most females experience the condition in one form or another during their child bearing years.

According to Mind, at least 40% of women having periods suffer from the condition, with around 5 to 10% finding the problem severe.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome can be mental as well as physical and can include:

  • Water retention and feeling bloated
  • Pain and discomfort in the abdominal region, stomach cramps
  • Head- and backache
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Acne
  • Food cravings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Tender breasts
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Poor concentration
  • Forgetfulness
  • Changes in sex drive

What causes it?

There is no clear understanding of what causes PMS, although health professionals have pointed to several possible factors contributing to symptoms. The NHS gives an outline:

  • Hormone changes – a woman’s hormones rise and fall during the menstrual cycle. There is some evidence to suggest that PMS is less prevalent during pregnancy and menopause, when hormone levels are stable.
  • Changes in brain chemicals – like hormones, brain chemicals also fluctuate during the menstrual cycle. These include serotonin, the hormone known for its ability to lift moods.
  • Stress and weight – research suggests that women who are obese and/or stressed are more prone to PMS. Those who do little exercise and have a poor diet are also at a higher risk.

How is it treated?

There is no known cure for PMS, although treatments to manage symptoms are available.

There are various types of medication designed to regulate hormones, including oral contraceptives, and therefore lessen the psychological symptoms of PMS.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can also help to tackle these symptoms and any possible underlying problems.

Certain lifestyle changes could also ease symptoms - eating small meals to avoid bloating, for example, or drinking plenty of water to prevent headaches caused by dehydration. Dairy foods, fruit and vegetables are thought to supply the correct minerals to help alleviate PMS symptoms and it is advisable to avoid alcohol and caffeine

Doing regular exercise and taking the time to relax are also important in combating Premenstrual Syndrome.

Images: gumuz and adria richards on Flikr

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Published August 08, 2020 by in Health Conditions
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