PMS Decoded- Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

May 10, 2022

Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS, as it is most commonly known, is an umbrella term used to describe a whole gamut of physical and psychological symptoms that could range from mild breast tenderness and food cravings to debilitating cramps and full-blown depression. In fact, a whopping 90% of women in their reproductive years report experiencing some form of discomfort in the week or two leading up to their monthly period. However, an unfortunate 20% of these women suffer from premenstrual symptoms of such severity that their daily life is disrupted to the point of a calculable loss of productivity. Such women may be clinically diagnosed to suffer from PMS.

What causes PMS?

Despite years of research, scientists have been unable to single out any clear-cut reason for PMS occurring in such a large percentage of the female population. However, what we do know for a fact is that rapidly dropping levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the week prior to the onset of menstruation is a significant trigger in causing PMS. Additionally, various factors such as those listed below can make you more susceptible to PMS. 

  • Fluctuating/low levels of certain brain chemicals such as serotonin. 
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly that of Vitamin B-6 and Magnesium.
  • Lifestyle habits – unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and drinking.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth- women who have given birth to at least one child are more likely to suffer from PMS. 
  • Age- women report worsening symptoms, especially psychological ones, with advancing age. 
  • Pre-menopause/peri-menopause – women report an increase in the severity of their condition in the period of about ten years before actual menopause, or cessation of the monthly period cycle.
  • Preexisting medical conditions – other underlying health issues may trigger or worsen PMS.
  • Undiagnosed mental health issues – although depression does not have a direct causal link to PMS, it can worsen symptoms of the syndrome, and vice versa. 
  • A possible genetic predisposition to the syndrome – studies have shown that a tendency to suffer from premenstrual symptoms or PMS may run more in some families, than others.

Can PMS be diagnosed?

Getting a medical diagnosis can be helpful in validating your experience, and act as a call to action. Know that there is no shame in asking for help and that it is pointless to suffer in silence. The first step towards relief is as simple as approaching a doctor in person, or through an online platform such as Mind and Mom. To arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan, your doctor will assess the type, duration, frequency and severity of your symptoms, ascertain whether they are cyclical and coincide with your periods regularly, and check for any irregularities in your test parameters to rule out other underlying medical concerns that could produce similar or overlapping symptoms.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

PMS has an exhaustive range of symptoms that we have outlined below. Before you eagerly jump in to self-diagnose yourself, as is common now, a word of caution: please do remember that symptoms can vary dramatically from woman to woman, and even cycle to cycle in the same woman, so it is best to discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional.

Physical Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Joint/muscle/body pain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal bloating and resultant weight gain
  • Abdominal cramps, back and pelvic pain
  • Constipation/diarrhea
  • Acne
  • Alcohol intolerance

Psychological and Behavioral Symptoms

  • Changes in appetite/food cravings
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings characterized by fits of rage and/or crying spells
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of concentration
  • Socially avoidant/repressed behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

We at Mind and Mom are all about prioritizing female healthcare, and our concern over your period problems are no different. As such, PMS ranks high on our list of priorities. To know more about how you can get some much-needed relief from your PMS symptoms, please click here.

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