Every month around my period I get really forgetful. Is that a sign of PMS? What are other symptoms and what causes it? Why doesn’t everyone get it? Also, what’s the best way to treat PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) represents a collection of physical and emotional symptoms that some women experience during the second part of their menstrual cycle. The symptoms may start at different times near the end of the cycle, generally resolve when the menstrual period begins, and return at about the same time each month.
Women with PMS may experience a variety of changes that cause discomfort. The physical changes include weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness, headache, swelling of the abdomen, constipation, clumsiness, fatigue, swollen hands and feet, and a craving for salt or for sweets. The emotional or behavioral changes include depression, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, a loss of self-confidence, hostility, a sense of things not working right, and a change in sex drive.
Some women are bothered more by emotional changes, while others are most affected by physical changes. The severity of the symptoms vary woman to woman, and may even vary month to month for a given woman. The symptoms may last from 3-14 days each cycle. A hallmark of PMS is that the symptoms disappear completely for at least two weeks each month. Any symptom that lasts longer than two weeks is probably not PMS.
While it is unclear what causes PMS, we know it’s linked to hormones. The cyclic production of estrogen and progesterone that occurs between puberty and menopause is certainly tied to the development of symptoms. Women with PMS generally have normal hormonal levels, and an excess or deficiency of estrogen or progesterone probably does not cause PMS. It is possible that these hormones interact with chemicals in the brain to cause the changes seen in PMS. Prostaglandins may also play a role.
There is no known cure for PMS. Most treatments center around self-help techniques including exercise, diet and stress management. The key dietary changes are the reduction of salt, sugar, caffeine and alcohol intake. Regular aerobic exercise can help decrease the symptoms of PMS. Vitamin and mineral supplementation (Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium) have also been used.
Medical therapies for PMS include the use of birth control pills which block ovulation and should therefore block the occurrence of PMS. Unfortunately, this is not fail-proof and some women may even experience an increase in PMS symptoms. GnRH agonists potently suppress ovarian function, but because of side effects, are appropriate only for severely afflicted women. Women who suffer from depression may find relief from anti-depressant medications such as Prozac. This therapy is gaining greater acceptance in the treatment of PMS. Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax have also been used in certain cases. A mild diuretic may also be prescribed for the treatment of water retention.
Remember: Being aware of your body and your moods will enhance your ability to cope with the changes as they occur and in turn may provide relief from some of the symptoms.