Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) refers to a collection of physical and psychological symptoms that affect women of childbearing age before the start of each menstrual period. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, PMS is defined as "the cyclic occurrence of symptoms that are sufficiently severe to interfere with some aspects of life, and that appear with consistent and predictable relationship to the menses". Getting to know more about this condition is the first step in handling it effectively.
The direct cause of PMS is not known although it is said to be associated with the fluctuating hormonal levels in the body of a woman. These hormones include estrogen and progesterone. This usually happens when the body is being prepared for menstruation.
There are various symptoms that come with this condition. Symptoms are classified as either physical or psychological. Physical symptoms include bloating, breast tenderness, weight gain, headaches, backaches, cramps, muscle aches, and fatigue. Psychological symptoms include aggression, concentration problems, food cravings, excessive eating, tearfulness, irritability, anxiety, mood swings, and depression. Out of the 85 percent of women who experience PMS symptoms, only 2 to 10 percent experience these in severe degree.
No single test can diagnose PMS but several tests can point out if a woman is undergoing this condition. A few of these tests include thyroid test and PMS symptoms diary. Thyroid disease is common in women who are of childbearing age. Most symptoms of PMS are similar to those of a thyroid disease. This is why, a doctor usually conducts a thyroid test to determine if your thyroid is functioning well. This way, he can rule out thyroid disease and detect more easily if it is PMS.
A doctor may also advise a PMS symptom diary. A woman would keep this diary for two to three consecutive months to record symptoms along with information about their time of occurrence and duration.
Prevention and Treatment
PMS cannot be prevented but by being properly educated and by taking up appropriate treatment for the symptoms, a woman can alleviate this condition. As for treatment, PMS also cannot be treated.
But you can treat the symptoms through medications. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS can relieve muscle pains, headaches, backaches, cramps, and breast tenderness. Examples of such include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve).
Antidepressants may also be prescribed in case of severe depression. Some doctors also prescribe the use of oral contraceptives, which although has been said to be helpful, has not been proven to be highly effective.
Apart from these, proper nutrition and exercise also play a role in minimizing PMS symptoms. Limit intake of caffeine, salt, and sugar in your diet to relieve the symptoms of PMS. Instead, focus more on highly nutritious foods, particularly those that are rich in vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and complex carbohydrates. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can also strengthen your body and reduce muscle aches and pains.