Signs & Symptoms of PMS

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a condition which affects nearly 80% of women of menstruating age (20-50 years) in the days just prior to their monthly menstruation. It can present a large collection of symptoms which vary not only from woman to woman but from month to month in a single individual.

What Exactly Is Premenstrual Syndrome?

Premenstrual syndrome is a collection of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms which present sometime between the time of ovulation (release of an egg) and the time of menstruation (vaginal discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus). These symptoms usually go away after the first or second day of menstrual flow.

Common Signs and Symptoms of PMS

Physical Symptoms
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain from fluid retention
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
Mental and Emotional Symptoms
  • Tension or anxiety
  • Crying spells
  • Mood swings and irritability or anger
  • Appetite changes and food cravings
  • Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor concentration
Keep in mind: this certainly isn't an exhaustive list. While experiencing all of these symptoms simultaneously would be miserable, most women experience only a few and for a short period. Unfortunately, even a few of these symptoms at a time can create disruptions in daily life.

What Causes PMS?

Doctors are, to this day, unable to explain exactly what causes this wide variety of symptoms. The most likely culprit for many of these symptoms are the hormonal changes which take place during this stage of the menstrual cycle. The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle takes place between ovulation and menstruation. During this phase the ovaries release hormones which cause the lining of the uterus - the endometrium - to thicken with spongy, blood vessel-rich tissue in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg. Progesterone levels rise while estrogen levels fall, possibly resulting in some of the previously mentioned symptoms.

Is There Any Way to Prevent PMS?

There is currently no way to completely prevent the symptoms of PMS. But there are things you can do to avoid contributing to some of them. Eating salt and salty foods causes the retention of water in an effort to keep your internal sodium concentration constant. Water retention can cause weight gain and bloating. Stay away from these foods in the few days prior to your period. You can also help that bloated feeling by eating smaller meals more frequently to prevent the feeling of being full.

Caffeine, alcohol, and sleep deprivation can all cause mood aggravations. Keep these at a minimum by getting plenty of sleep (more than 8 hours if you need it) and drinking moderate amounts of water instead of coffee or tea. You can also try yoga, meditation or breathing exercises to help reduce the stress which can exacerbates symptoms. While it is generally acceptable to take a little extra time each month to deal with the symptoms of PMS, you can avoid much of the pain and irritation associated with this common condition simply by identifying those symptoms which most upset your routine and managing them through diet, exercise, and stress relief methods.


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