Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

  • 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

How common is PMS?

About 90% of women experience premenstrual symptoms at some point in their lifetime. The true incidence of PMS has often been overestimated by including all women who experience any physical or emotional symptoms prior to menstruation. It is estimated that clinically significant PMS (which is moderate to severe in intensity and affects a woman's functioning) occurs in 20% to 30% of women. It is generally most severe in women in their 4th decade of life. About 3% to 8% of women are believed to have the more severe variant known as PMDD.

When was PMS discovered?

The mood changes surrounding this condition have been described as early as the time of the ancient Greeks. However, it was not until 1931 that this disorder was officially recognized by the medical community. The term "premenstrual syndrome" was coined in 1953.

What causes PMS?

PMS remains an enigma because of the wide-ranging symptoms and the difficulty in making a firm diagnosis. Several theories have been advanced to explain the cause of PMS. None of these theories have been proven, and specific treatment for PMS still largely lacks a solid scientific basis. Most evidence suggests that PMS results from the alterations in or interactions between the levels of sex hormones and brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

PMS does not appear to be specifically associated with any personality factors or specific personality types. Likewise, a number of studies have shown that psychological stress is not related to the severity of PMS.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

A great variety of symptoms have been attributed to PMS. Women can have PMS of varying duration and severity from cycle to cycle. The most frequent mood-related symptoms of PMS include:

  • anger and irritability,
  • anxiety,
  • tension,
  • depression,
  • crying,
  • oversensitivity, and
  • exaggerated mood swings.

The most frequent physical signs and symptoms of PMS include:

  • fatigue,
  • bloating (due to fluid retention),
  • weight gain,
  • breast tenderness,
  • acne,
  • sleep disturbances with sleeping too much or too little (insomnia), and
  • appetite changes with overeating or food cravings.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/12/2015
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