What is Premenstrual Syndrome?
Premenstrual Syndrome is a collection of psychological, behavioral, and physical symptoms that tend to occur just before the menstrual periods of a female. Premenstrual Syndrome is quite common condition and persists only till the menstrual period lasts. Approximately 80% of females in the reproducing age bracket in the United States suffer from Premenstrual Syndrome.
The symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome begin around a week before the actual menstrual period begins and once the period actually starts these symptoms seem to fade away. The cause for Premenstrual Syndrome is not known yet but it has been suggested that change in hormones along with changes in the serotonin levels in the body just before the menstrual cycle contribute to the symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome.
The levels of progesterone and estrogen tend to increase during certain periods in a month and these changes in the levels of the hormones in turn causes anxiety, irritability, mood swings which when all combined constitute the symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome.
What are the Risk Factors for Premenstrual Syndrome?
Some of the risk factors for Premenstrual Syndrome are:
- A female with a prior history of depression or mood disorders is more likely to suffer from Premenstrual Syndrome than the general population.
- A female with a family history of Premenstrual Syndrome is also predisposed to having this condition at some point in her life till the time she becomes menopausal
- A female who is a victim of domestic violence and sexual abuse is also at risk for developing Premenstrual Syndrome
- Females who are involved with recreational drug and alcohol abuse also are at increased risk for developing Premenstrual Syndrome
What Causes Premenstrual Syndrome?
No known etiology for Premenstrual Syndrome has been established as of yet but there are several factors which may contribute to development of this condition. These contributing factors are:
- Cyclic Hormonal Changes: The symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome change with changes in the levels of hormones and completely go away with the onset of either pregnancy or menopause
- Chemical Changes in Brain: Changes or fluctuations in the level of serotonin in the brain also contribute towards the development of symptoms in a female with Premenstrual Syndrome. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for changes in mood of an individual. If the serotonin levels are low then an individual will feel sad and depressed and will start having negative thoughts.
- Depression: This also plays an important role in the development of symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome, although this alone does not cause all of the symptoms of this condition.
What are the Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome?
The symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome can be broken down into three parts, emotional, behavioral, and physical. Some of the emotional and behavioral symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome are:
- Persistent anxiety
- Depressed and sad mood
- Frequent crying spells
- Mood swings
- Increased anger over small things and irritability
- Increased appetite with craving for certain foods
- Social withdrawal
- Concentration difficulties
Some of the physical symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome are:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Frequent headaches
- Excessive fatigue
- Weight gain
- Abdominal bloating
- Alternating constipation and diarrhea
How is Premenstrual Syndrome Diagnosed?
There are no specific tests as such to diagnose Premenstrual Syndrome. The description of symptoms alone helps the physician diagnose whether the patient is suffering from Premenstrual Syndrome, especially if the symptoms are just at the beginning of menstrual periods and fade away when the periods are over.
In order to confirm a diagnosis, the physician will try to establish a pattern of symptoms with the menstrual periods for which he or she will ask the patient to record the onset of symptoms and the menstrual periods on a calendar or a diary. This will need to be done for at least two menstrual cycles. The patient will have to note down the date when the symptoms start and the date when they end. The pattern will clearly delineate whether the female has Premenstrual Syndrome.
How is Premenstrual Syndrome Treated?
It has been seen that for many females certain lifestyle modifications are good enough to get rid of the symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome. There are also certain medications which can be given depending on the severity of the symptoms to get rid of symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome. The efficacy of these medications differs from individual to individual. Some of the medications that are prescribed for relieving Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms are:
Antidepressants: These are given in the form of SSRI and include drugs like fluoxetine or Zoloft. They are quite helpful in maintaining adequate serotonin levels in the brain and get rid of any negative thoughts.
NSAIDs: These are given to decrease any pain or cramping just before the onset of menstrual periods.
Diuretics: These medications are given to get rid of the fluid retention that is common in Premenstrual Syndrome and is a major factor in weight gain and swelling, especially of the lower extremities. Aldactone is the most preferred diuretic that is given to females to get rid of water retention caused due to Premenstrual Syndrome
What are The Lifestyle Changes Recommended for Premenstrual Syndrome?
Some of the lifestyle changes that a female can make to get rid of Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms are:
- Eating smaller and more-frequent meals so as to reduce bloating and sensation of fullness
- Restricting intake of salt to prevent fluid retention
- Eat foods rich in carbohydrates
- Eat calcium rich foods
- Try and avoid caffeine and alcohol use as much as possible
- Exercise at least for 30 minutes everyday
- Find ways to reduce stress either by yoga or other means
- Try and get plenty of sleep
Practicing these lifestyle changes can immensely help an individual get rid of the symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome.