The term “PMS” often gets a bad rap.
Women usually throw it out as an explanation of symptoms they have trouble pinpointing once a month, and men sometimes throw it right back, branding it a mythical excuse.
Although premenstrual syndrome is a legitimate medical condition, everything about it is a little vague, which makes diagnosing and treating it tricky.
What is PMS?
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, PMS is when you experience symptoms that are consistent with your menstrual cycle (occurring two weeks before menstruation) and severe enough to interfere with some aspects of your daily life.
PMS affects 20 to 32 percent of premenopausal women, and symptoms can run the gamut, from bloating and breast tenderness, to weight gain and aggression, to anxiety and mood swings.
Because the exact cause of PMS is unknown ““ but it’s most likely related to fluctuating levels of hormones ““ there’s no cure for PMS, but you can treat the symptoms.
Dr. Susan Oakley, director of pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery with St. Elizabeth Physicians, recommends taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain reliever, such as Aleve, Motrin or Midol, to ease the physical and emotional discomfort.
But, my PMS is really bad ““ every month!
If you notice you have a multitude of PMS symptoms, or they’re especially intense, you might have premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. The symptoms of PMDD are similar to PMS, but they severely affect your daily life.
PMDD occurs in three to eight percent of menstruating women, and genetics plays a “huge role,” Oakley said.
To be diagnosed with PMDD, you must have at least five of these 10 symptoms that occur before your period:
- A markedly depressed mood
- Significant anxiety
- Marked emotional swings
- Persistent or pronounced anger
- Decreased interest
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Change in appetite
- Generalized physical symptoms such as cramping, bloating and breast tenderness
“These criteria are the same criteria in the diagnosis of depression,” Oakley said. “That’s why PMDD is considered more concerning than PMS.”
If you think you may have PMDD, schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she may recommend you be screened for issues such as drug abuse, addiction, generalized anxiety disorder and depression, and may prescribe medications or therapy based on the results.