Menstrual Cramps and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Medication Guide

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Quick GuidePremenstrual Syndrome Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to PMS Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Premenstrual Syndrome Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to PMS Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

What medications are used to treat PMS?

Medications used to treat the different symptoms of PMS include taking:

  • Diuretics, which are medications that increase urine production, thereby eliminating excess fluid and relieving weight gain, bloating, and swelling. Ammonium chloride, caffeine, and pamabrom are mild diuretics that are ingredients in nonprescription OTC products such as Diurex PMS, Lurline PMS, Midol PMS, Pamprin Multisymptom, and Premesyn PMS. Spironolactone (Aldactone) is a prescription diuretic that has been used to treat premenstrual swelling of the hands, feet, and/or face.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) that are commonly used for menstrual cramps, headaches, and pelvic discomfort. NSAIDs are available as both prescription and non-prescription products. Examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox), ketoprofen (Orudis), and mefenamic acid (Ponstel).
  • Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) that are sometimes prescribed by doctors to decrease fluctuations in ovarian hormone levels. While older studies failed to provide evidence that OCPs can consistently provide relief for symptoms of PMS, the newer low-dose birth control pills, with their improved hormonal formulations, seem to be more beneficial.
  • Ovarian suppressors such as danazol (Danocrine) have been prescribed by doctors to suppress ovarian hormone production. Danocrine cannot be used over long periods because of side effects.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogs, which cause the complete suppression of ovarian function, and have been found to be helpful in treating some women with PMS. These GnRH analogs are not prescribed long term (more than 6 months) because of their adverse effects on bone density and an increased risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis).
  • Antidepressants which are prescribed by doctors to treat the mood disturbances related to PMS. Antidepressants appear to work by increasing brain chemical (serotonin and others) levels that are affected by the ovarian hormones.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil). These are examples of antidepressant medications that have been found to be effective in treating the mood changes associated with PMS.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015
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