Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

What is Premenstrual Syndrome?

Premenstrual Syndrome is also called PMS. In countries like the UK, it is called premenstrual tension or PMT. An estimated 85 percent of women experience at least one symptom of it during their menstruating years. The good news is that it goes away with menopause. The bad news is that there is no cure, but symptoms are often treatable.

It is unknown what causes PMS and why it does not happen to all women. There are theories that point at the hormonal roller-coaster ride women go on every 20 days as culprit, combined with other problems like stress, eating a diet poor in vital nutrients, drinking too much alcohol or eating too much salty foods.

What are the Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome?

Symptoms of PMS begin usually 5 days before a period starts. Some women experience symptoms a week before their period. Women many suffer from one or more symptoms.

Common symptoms include bloating, irritability, cries more easily than usual, sudden outbreak of acne, painfully swollen breasts, backache, headaches (including a particular type of migraine called a menstrual migraine), strong food cravings, joint aches similar to arthritis, depression with or without anxiety.

Uncommon symptoms include a worsening of a woman’s chronic health condition like asthma, migraines, seizure disorders like epilepsy and allergy attacks.

Severe depression that occurs during PMS is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder and can lead to suicide if left untreated.

How is Premenstrual Syndrome Treated?

Although incurable, PMS can often be treated successfully with diet and lifestyle changes. Regular exercise, quitting smoking, a healthier diet and reducing or quitting drinking help eases symptoms. Learning other ways to reduce stress besides smoking, eating or taking illegal drugs can also help the psychological symptoms.

Severe symptoms are treated separately, such as painkillers to help with joint aches and triptans to help ease migraine pain. Diuretics or “water pills” can be taken to help reduce bloating. Antidepressants may be necessary for women who do not have premenstrual dysphoric disorder but still get very depressed or anxious before their periods.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
August 29, 2017