What is Premenstrual Syndrome / PMS or PMT?
None of these symptoms is exclusive to PMS. They can be caused by other conditions such as depression, stress, thyroid gland problems and anaemia. These symptoms usually improve when the woman's period starts, and they disappear a few days afterwards.
(A small number of women find that their symptoms are severe enough to stop them living their normal lives. This is due to a more intense type of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder).
Who is affected
Nearly all women of child-bearing age have some premenstrual symptoms, but those between their late 20s and early 40s are most likely to experience PMS.
How do I know if I have PMS?
There is no specific blood test or urine test that shows PMS.
Instead, diagnosis is based upon the type of symptoms and when they occur. The symptoms of PMS have a fairly consistent relationship with the start and finish of a period, which is an essential clue to the diagnosis.
Most women with PMS notice a gradual worsening of their symptoms during the week before their period, with a rapid or gradual disappearance of symptoms when their period starts.
Sometimes symptoms can persist during your period or even for a couple of days after it has finished.
It is often helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms and their severity over a few consecutive months. For those with PMS a cyclical pattern should become obvious, with several symptom-free days each month.
What causes PMS?
The exact cause of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is not fully understood, though it is believed to be linked to hormonal fluctuations. A number of factors may contribute to these symptoms:
During your menstrual cycle, levels of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone rise and fall. Hormone changes are thought to be the biggest contributing factor to many of the symptoms of PMS. The fact that PMS improves during pregnancy and after the menopause, when hormone levels are stable, supports this theory. However the subtleties of why some women are more affected than others are not understood.
Like your hormone levels, certain chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin, fluctuate during your menstrual cycle. Serotonin is known to help regulate your mood and make you feel happier, so it is possible that women with low levels of serotonin are more sensitive to the symptoms of PMS.
Low levels of serotonin may also contribute to symptoms such as:
Weight and exercise
Research has shown that you are more likely to have PMS if you are obese.
PMS are often worse as you become more stressed. While it is not a direct cause, stress can aggravate the symptoms of PMS.
Eating too much of foods such as food which add to fluid retention , alcohol and caffeinated drinks can disrupt your mood and energy levels and make you feel bloated Eating too little of foods containing vitamins and minerals may also make your symptoms of PMS worse.
NOTE: PMS is not caused by any underlying abnormality with the pelvic organs.