Premenstrual Syndrome (cont.)

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How common is PMS?

About 80% of women experience some premenstrual symptoms. 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. About 2% to 6% 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 4/29/2014

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