Premenstrual syndrome or PMS is a group of symptoms that affect women before their periods. These symptoms start to manifest from anywhere between 7-14 days before the period starts. The signs of premenstrual syndrome can be emotional, physical or behavioural.
PMS is extremely common – it generally affects 80% of menstruating women.
What causes premenstrual syndrome?
The exact cause of PMS has not yet been found yet. However, many researchers suspect that fluctuations in a woman’s sex hormones and her serotonin levels before a period are to be blamed. This is because, a change in sex hormone equilibrium in women usually implies that their estrogen or progesterone level has increased.
This increase can result in anxiety and mood fluctuations. Serotonin too affects mood. So, any fluctuations in serotonin levels can also lead to the same mental states as caused by sex hormone fluctuations.
While the exact causes of PMS are unknown, there are risk factors that make a woman prone to it. They are –
PMS running the family
- A history of mood problems or depression
- Domestic violence
- Emotional and physical trauma
- Drug abuse
What are the signs of premenstrual syndrome?
Before we talk about the symptoms, let’s look at a woman’s menstrual cycle. The length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days. The female body releases an egg on the 14th day of the cycle – this process is known as ovulation. Menstruation occurs on the 28th day.
The signs of premenstrual syndrome begin to manifest from the 14th day of the menstrual cycle. It can last up to 7 days or until the time menstruation begins.
Now let’s look at the signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome –
- Pain in the abdomen
- An outbreak of acne
- Breast pain
- Cravings for food
- Bowel problems
- Anxiety and depression
- Easily irritable
- Emotional outbursts
- Easily fatigued
In rare cases, the symptoms can also become very severe. When PMS symptoms aggravate, it is called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
The symptoms of PMDD are –
- Suicidal thoughts
- Severe anxiety
- Severe mood swings coupled with anger
- A fuzzy brain
If you have symptoms of PMDD, consult a doctor for further assistance.
Management of premenstrual syndrome
Now that you are aware of the symptoms, let’s look at how to manage them. If you PMS, these are the steps you need to take –
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet that will enhance your energy levels. This means avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sugar.
- Stay hydrated if you feel bloated.
- You can take supplements of vitamin B6, folic acid and calcium to combat cramps and mood fluctuations.
- Even vitamin D supplements will help.
- Don’t compromise on sleep. You have to get at least 8 hours of shut-eye to prevent fatigue.
- Say yes to exercise.
- Practise relaxation techniques like meditation to lower stress.
If the pain becomes unbearable, taking pain-relieving medications such as ibuprofen can help. This is particularly useful if you have severe muscle cramps or headaches.
Diuretics can also help if you observe water weight gain and bloating.
PMS symptoms can be kept at bay if you follow a healthy lifestyle. If you have a history of PMS symptoms, follow a comprehensive treatment plan to reduce the signs of PMS.