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What is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name of a group of symptoms that start 7 to 14 days before your period (menstruation). The symptoms usually stop soon after your period begins.
Most women feel some discomfort before their periods. But if you have PMS, you may feel so anxious, depressed or uncomfortable that you can't cope at home or at work. Some of the symptoms of PMS are listed in the box below. Your symptoms may be worse some months and better others.
Symptoms of PMS
What causes PMS?
- Bloated abdomen
- Crying spells
- Fast heartbeat
- Feeling Hungry
- Feeling irritable or tense
- Feeling tired
- Feeling anxious
- Joint pain
- Mood swings
- Not feeling as interested in sex
- Tender and swollen breasts
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Swollen hands or feet
- Wanting to be alone
- Weight gain
No one knows for sure. But PMS seems to be linked in part to changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. PMS is not caused by stress or psychological problems, though these may make the symptoms of PMS worse.
How is PMS diagnosed?
Your doctor may ask you to keep track of your symptoms on a calendar. If your symptoms follow the same pattern each month, you may have PMS.
Your doctor may want to examine you and do some tests to rule out other problems. He or she may also want to talk to you about your eating and exercise habits, your work and your family.
How is PMS treated?
There is no cure for PMS, but eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and taking medicine may help. Your doctor will talk to you about whether you need to change your diet and exercise habits. He or she may also prescribe medicine for you, depending on what your symptoms are.
You may need to try more than one medicine to find the treatment that works for you. Many medicines are available over-the-counter, but some require a doctor's prescription. Medicines that can be prescribed include diuretics, antidepressants and birth control pills. Other medicines for PMS are being studied.
What are diuretics?
Diuretics help your body get rid of extra sodium and fluid. They can ease bloating, weight gain, breast pain and abdominal pain. Diuretics are usually taken just before you would normally have these symptoms.
Do antidepressants help?
Antidepressants can help with the severe irritability, depression and anxiety that some women with PMS have. These medicines are usually prescribed by your doctor.
What about birth control pills?
Your doctor may talk to you about taking birth control pills (sometimes called "the pill") to help ease some of your PMS symptoms. Birth control pills help by "evening out" your hormone levels throughout your cycle. Some women's PMS symptoms get a lot better when they take birth control pills. However, the pill can also cause side effects of its own, and it doesn't help all women.
What about medicines I can buy without a prescription?
Some over-the-counter medicines can also help. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Can I do anything to ease my symptoms?
Yes. See below for some tips. Know what your PMS symtoms are and when they happen. Then you can change your diet, exercise and schedule to get through each month as smoothly as possible.
Try not to get discouraged if it takes some time to find tips or medicine that help you. Treatment varies from one person to another. Your doctor can help you find the right treatment.
Tips on controlling PMS
What about vitamins and other home remedies?
- Eat complex carbohydrates (such as whole grain breads, pasta and cereals), fiber and protein. Cut back on sugar and fat.
- Avoid salt for the last few days before your period to reduce bloating and fluid retention.
- Cut back on caffeine to feel less tense and irritable and to ease breast soreness.
- Cut out alcohol. Drinking it before your period can make you feel more depressed.
- Try eating up to 6 small meals a day instead of 3 larger ones.
- Get aerobic exercise. Work up to 30 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week.
- Get plenty of sleep--about 8 hours a night.
- Keep to a regular schedule of meals, bedtime and exercise.
- Try to schedule stressful events for the week after your period.
You may have read that some vitamins and other supplements, such as vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese and tryptophan, can help relieve PMS. There haven't been many studies about these treatments, and it's possible that they could do more harm than good. For example, vitamin B6 and vitamin E can cause side effects if you take too much. Talk to your doctor if you're thinking of trying any of these vitamins or supplements.
On the other hand, taking calcium pills may reduce symptoms of water retention, cramps and back pain. Taking calcium daily probably won't be harmful, especially because calcium has so many other benefits, such as being good for your bones.