What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name given to a group of physical and emotional symptoms that some women experience on a regular basis in relation to menstruation. Premenstrual syndrome involves a variety of physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms tied to a woman's menstrual cycle. By definition, symptoms occur during the days before a woman's period starts. They usually go away after the first day or two of flow.
During each menstrual cycle, a woman's body is subjected to cyclical changes in sex hormone levels. All women are aware of these prementstrual changes to some degree and, for the majority, these cyclical changes are a normal feature of life. If these physical or psychological changes become excessive and disrupt a woman’s life she has “premenstrual syndrome” or “PMS”.
Premenstrual syndrome is defined as distressing physical and psychological symptoms, not caused by organic disease, which regularly recur during the same phase of each menstrual cycle, and which significantly regress or disappear during the remainder of the cycle. The symptoms occur in the two weeks leading up to the next period known as the luteal phase of the cycle. The severity may range from that indefinable point that is acceptable to the majority of women to such a degree of debility that for some time each month a woman may fail to function at home, at work or both. There is evidence that suicide and criminal offences occur more frequently premenstrually.
PMS is a complex health concern. Up to 80% of women experience some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Scientists cannot agree on its cause or the best way to treat premenstrual syndrome. PMS usually occurs in women in their fourth and fifth decades of life (aged 30-49 years). For a small number of women, it can be severely incapacitating. A woman who has had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) may still experience premenstrual syndrome if at least one ovary remains. Because many different processes may contribute to premenstrual syndrome, methods of treatment vary widely and can include medical and alternative approaches. Surgery is a last resort. As many as 3-8% of women may have a more severe condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMS and PMDD are not the same. Women with PMDD become seriously depressed for a week or more before their periods. PMS is shorter, usually milder, and involves more physical symptoms. The two may occur together or a woman may have one and not the other.
For most women premenstrual syndrome symptoms are mild. In others, the symptoms may be severe and even incapacitating. The severity of a woman's symptoms has much more to do with her body chemistry than her personality. PMS can occur at any time after puberty, but more women experience symptoms in their 30s and 40s than in their teenage years. Women who have had more children tend to have more severe symptoms, and women whose mother had premenstrual syndrome are at increased risk. PMS tends to get worse as women age and experience hormonal changes. Women with a history of depression have a greater risk of premenstrual syndrome.
Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) is not considered a symptom of premenstrual syndrome. However, a woman can experience both premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea and may decide to seek treatment for both difficuities.