Learn About Ailments | PMS PMT


Pre-menstrual syndrome/tension is a common condition characterised by mood swings, depression and irritability prior to a woman's period (menstruation) and can be accompanied by bloating or cramps.

In This Article
Did you know? Causes of PMS
Symptoms of PMS Diagnosis of PMS
Related terms

  • There are more than 150 symptoms associated with PMS
  • 40% of women experience some PMS symptoms
  • 2-5% of women suffer debilitating PMS symptoms
  • 90 per cent of women experience advanced warning of PMS

The exact causes of PMS are unclear but there are known contributory factors to the symptoms such as hormonal changes, chemical imbalance, stress and diet.

Hormonal changes
Prior to menstruation, oestrogen and progesterone hormone levels fluctuate causing many of the symptoms associated with PMS. During pregnancy and after the menopause, these hormones become stable and improve PMS supporting the theory that hormonal changes are the biggest contributory factor of pre-menstrual syndrome.

Chemical imbalance
Chemical changes in the brain occur during the menstrual cycle. Chemicals such as serotonin fluctuate causing changes to mood. Women with low levels of serotonin become sensitive to symptoms of PMS such as fatigue, food cravings and difficulty with sleeping.

While not a cause of PMS, stress can make symptoms worse.

Fluid retention caused by excess salt in the diet is a contributory factor of bloatedness – a common PMS symptom. Energy and mood can be affected by alcohol and caffeine and a lack of essential vitamins and nutrients in the diet can make PMS symptoms feel worse.

Symptoms of PMS vary depending on the individual and with more than 150 symptoms, women will experience PMS if different ways. Common pre-menstrual syndrome symptoms include:
  • irritability
  • feeling bloated
  • mood swings
  • emotional changes
  • insomnia
  • skin problems
  • back pain
  • lack of concentration
  • muscle aches
  • joint pain
  • breast tenderness
  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • food cravings
  • loss of appetite/increased appetite
  • loss of libido
  • abnormal heartbeat
  • swelling to the hands or feet
PMS symptoms typically begin at the start of the menstrual cycle each month (around two weeks before menstruation). Severe PMS can cause disruption to daily activities and have accompanying mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and low-self esteem. Severe PMS is referred to as pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and can have an impact on developing or sustaining long-lasting relationships.

Pre-menstrual syndrome does not have a test or procedure for diagnosis but if symptoms are severe then in the first instance you should visit your GP.

If you or your GP suspects PMDD then a physical examination may be carried out to determine any underlying condition which may be affecting you.

Stomach cramps
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