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Understanding Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

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What is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a common condition that women may experience five to eleven days before menstruation begins; symptoms typically cease within a few days after the start of menstruation. PMS affects emotions, behavior and physical well-being in up to 90 percent of menstruating women. The onset of PMS occurs when an egg is released from an ovary during the mid-point of menstrual cycle. Symptoms of PMS range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of PMS

Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abdominal bloating, pain or cramping
  • Mood swings, irritability, emotional eruptions or crying bouts
  • Breast tenderness
  • Food cravings
  • Acne
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Poor concentration
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Joint or muscle aches
  • Weight gain

Causes of PMS

The specific cause of premenstrual syndrome is unknown, but it is believed that changes in hormone levels play a large role. Anxiety, mood swings and irritability can result from increased estrogen and progesterone which fluctuate during the 28-day menstrual cycle. Insufficient levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that affects mood and emotion), which can occur during PMS, cause fatigue, food cravings, sleep problems and depression. Women with severe PMS may also have undiagnosed depression.

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