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Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Know Your Symptoms

Author: Dr. Vasantha K S - Women's Health  


What Is PMS

PMS is a term used to collectively describe a group of physical and emotional symptoms seen in women in the days leading up to the periods. These symptoms occur after ovulation and subside with the arrival of periods. During this phase, the hormonal fluctuations are at their peak, thus causing bodily changes as well as mood instabilities.

PMS Symptoms

The combination of PMS symptoms vary among different women and also between cycles in the same woman. They can be categorized as follows:

1. Physical symptoms:

  • Fatigue/ tiredness.
  • Cramps.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Headache.
  • Backache.
  • Bloating.
  • Weight gain.
  • Breast tenderness.
  • Acne.
  • Constipation/ diarrhea.
  • Joint pain.

2. Emotional symptoms:

  • Anxiety.
  • Mood swings.
  • Irritability.
  • Depression.
  • Crying spells.
  • Insomnia.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Loss of interest in sex.


The exact cause is yet to be established, but it is known to be brought about by cyclic hormonal changes in the woman's body. The levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone fall rapidly if you do not get pregnant after the ovulation has occurred.

PMS affects some women more than others. A very severe form of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is also experienced by some, but it is not as prevalent as PMS.

PMS Diagnosis

There are no specific tests available to diagnose PMS. Tests are often performed to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms such as depression, edema, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism, and irritable bowel syndrome. The disappearance of symptoms after the arrival of a period is considered as the telltale sign.

PMS Vs. Early Pregnancy: Unfortunately, both PMS and early pregnancy can have very similar symptoms, and if a period is missing, it is not possible to say for sure which one it is, without taking a pregnancy test.

What would help is maintaining a menstrual diary to make a note of your symptoms or keeping track of their recurrence through a phone app. This habit would not only help your doctor make a diagnosis but also help you know your body better. The presence of these symptoms during the premenstrual phase for three continuous cycles conclusively points to a diagnosis of PMS.

How to Manage PMS at Home

  1. Exercise is known to boost the release of 'feel-good' hormones which can alleviate the emotional symptoms of PMS.
  2. Yoga, massage, and meditation are known to lift the mood and aid in overcoming the blues.
  3. Dietary modifications that help are restricting salt, sugar, and caffeine intake.
  4. Research has shown that smoking and alcohol consumption significantly worsened PMS symptoms. Avoiding them protects you from feeling too ill.
  5. Take good rest during the day and get proper sleep at night.
  6. Get emotional support from friends and family.
  7. Going out for a stroll, or doing something you like would help you de-stress and stop you from worrying about your current situation.
  8. Take some 'me' time and spend it reading a favorite book, doing some gardening, or getting pampered in a spa.

Treatment for PMS

There is no specific cure for PMS. Taking Calcium and Magnesium supplements have helped a lot of women.

Many others benefit from symptomatic treatment that provides relief from the specific symptom encountered. Few of the drugs that are prescribed are:

  1. Diuretics.
  2. Painkillers.
  3. Oral contraceptive pills.
  4. Ovarian suppression hormones.
  5. Anti-depressants.
  6. Anti-anxiety drugs.
  7. In very severe cases, psychotherapy is seen to be of great support.

Effect of PMS on General Health

Although PMS does not cause these issues, they are observed to aggravate existing health conditions such as the following.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Asthma.
  • Allergy.
  • Migraine.

Call the Doctor If

  • You feel your PMS symptoms are getting out of hand.
  • You are not able to manage them with lifestyle changes.
  • It hampers your daily routine/ activities.
  • It interferes with your personal or professional relationships.
Image: Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Know Your Symptoms Last reviewed at: 08.Feb.2019



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