How many women have had a brother, father, boyfriend, or husband dismiss their PMS as imaginary or simply an excuse to behave badly? Even today, despite the fact that research and medical opinion considers premenstrual syndrome to be an actual medical condition with often devastating symptoms, many misconceptions remain. It’s time to face facts and look at just what PMS is and how it can affect you.

PMS is Real

In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 3 out of 4 women experience some form of premenstrual syndrome. PMS symptoms may start as early as one to two weeks before your period starts and can last throughout the entire time of your menstrual flow. It’s believed that the fluctuation in hormone and serotonin levels that accompany your monthly cycle may be responsible for many of the negative effects, but the specifics are still unclear. Some factors that may exacerbate the symptoms of PMS include low levels of certain vitamins and minerals, too much sodium in your diet, not getting enough sleep, and drinking excessive caffeine and/or alcohol.

Symptoms

The individual combination and severity of symptoms associated with PMS varies greatly for each woman – and sometimes even from month to month. For some, premenstrual syndrome is merely a minor annoyance, while others experience the more severe symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, which generally requires medical intervention.

Symptoms commonly associated with PMS include:

  • Breast swelling and/or tenderness
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Backache
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Bloating
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or lethargy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach and/or indigestion
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Headache or joint pain
  • Food cravings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent crying
  • Depression
  • Issues with concentration and/or memory

Treatments

Today, PMS is a commonly recognized condition, and numerous treatments are readily available. Depending on the severity and combination of specific symptoms you experience, your doctor may recommend one or a variety of strategies including both over-the-counter and prescription medications, vitamin and mineral supplements, lifestyle changes, and alternative therapies.

Some of the things that may help to alleviate the symptoms of PMS include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Yoga or massage for stress relief
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding salty and sugary foods
  • Not drinking alcohol or caffeine
  • Getting at least eight hours of sleep each night
  • Taking ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin
  • Prescription ketoprofen
  • Birth control pills including Yaz
  • Prescription SSRIs including fluoxetine, sertraline, and paroxetine
  • Diuretics (with your doctor’s approval)
  • Supplements including folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, B-6, and Vitamin E
  • Alternative therapies such as black cohosh, chasteberry, and evening primrose oil
  • Acupuncture

There is no specific test that can diagnose PMS, but if you suffer from five or more of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and/or find that your quality of life is impacted negatively from coping with your symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist to discuss the best treatment(s) for your individual case. There is no need to suffer in silence from this sometimes debilitating condition.