Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

What is premenstrual syndrome?
It is thought that up to 90% of women may suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) to some degree. You may also hear PMS referred to as premenstrual tension or PMT. The symptoms of PMS are both physical and emotional and vary in nature and severity according to the individual. Symptoms may begin 1–2 weeks before a period (menstruation) and are usually relieved when a period starts.

What are the symptoms of PMS?
Physical symptoms—Water retention (edema) is a common symptom and usually presents as temporary weight gain. Water retention can cause bloating of the abdomen so clothes may feel uncomfortably tight. Ankles and feet may also become puffy and fingers may swell causing rings and watches to become too tight. Fluid retention can also occur in the breasts, causing sensitivity and tenderness. This may be noticed when bras become tighter and any pressure on the breasts is uncomfortable. Headaches are a fairly common symptom of PMS and may present as a pain affecting the face, particularly around the sinuses, or as a band of pain around the head (tension headache). PMS causes an increased incidence of migraines in migraine sufferers, and some people may suffer from migraines only at this time of the month.

Some women may suffer from backache or a feeling of pelvic pressure. Many women notice that they develop acne during the week before their period. This often clears up when the period starts but can add to the general lowering effect of PMS on a woman’s morale.

Psychological symptoms—A feeling of tension or irritability is often noticed in varying severity. Some women may become “snappy” and are quicker to lose their temper than usual. Others may suffer extreme tension and can even become physically violent. Some women feel unable to concentrate or may feel like crying for no reason. Depression is a common feature of PMS. It can occur very quickly and the woman may suffer from mood swings, so that she may feel happy one minute and depressed and miserable the next. Physical symptoms of PMS, such as bloating or acne, can add to an already low mood. Depression may become quite severe and may need to be distinguished from symptomatic depression, which affects the sufferer all the time and not just during the premenstrual phase. Some women may feel lethargic and tired when they are premenstrual, which may be partly due to depression.