What is it?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS, for short) is a collection of symptoms that can happen in the week or two weeks before the onset of a period. One starts to feel better as soon as their period starts and symptoms are usually completely over by the end of the period.
The cause of PMS is not exactly known, but it is has been attributed to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle which may affect some chemicals in the brain. Not every woman experiences PMS, and the reason for this is also unclear. However, genetic factors seem to play a role according to studies.
What are the symptoms?
Common physical symptoms of PMS include feeling bloated, having tender breasts, and headaches. Other symptoms include fatigue, irritability, and being unusually emotional. Unusual hunger, and memory loss, are also often reported by women with PMS.
Because the symptoms can be quite common (for example, headache), the main thing that shows they are part of PMS is their timing.
Different women experience the symptoms of PMS in different ways. Some women’s symptoms are more severe, and they may find it hard to get on with their everyday lives when they have PMS. For others, it’s just a minor inconvenience.
What treatments work?
Just exercise and relaxation may help take care of mild PMS. But when these fail, medications can be used.
The doctor may prescribe oral contraceptives for the bloating and sore breasts. It is generally very safe except in some already existing health conditions. The doctor will decide if the contraceptive pill is right for you.
Drugs called SSRI antidepressants may help with anxiety or emotional lability in moderate or severe PMS. Common ones include fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, and citalopram. The doctor will discuss these drugs with you and help you make the best choice.
The doctor might also recommend medicines called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They can help relieve some symptoms of PMS such as headaches and breast pain.
These treatments take time (up to several months) to work, and some periods may have worse PMS than others. However, the symptoms should stop altogether after the menopause.
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