PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, refers to the physical and emotional symptoms that many women experience in the days leading up to their period (menstruation). Symptoms subside during a woman’s period, and there is usually at least one week without symptoms before they return.

Premenstrual symptoms are thought to affect most women who have periods, ranging from mild (in 75% of women) to severe (in 20 to 30 percent of women). PMS is associated with a lower quality of life in 8% of women with severe symptoms.

PMS is a complicated condition with both physical and emotional symptoms. The exact cause of PMS is unknown, but we do know that estrogen and progesterone levels fall during the week before your period. Many doctors believe that the drop in hormone levels causes PMS symptoms. Changes in brain chemicals or vitamin and mineral deficiencies may also play a role. Too much salt, alcohol, or caffeine may also aggravate symptoms.

The potential signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome are numerous. Physical symptoms include abdominal bloating, acne, back and muscle pain, headache, breast tenderness, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, headache, or swelling of hands/feet; emotional symptoms include anger, anxiety, depression, mood swings, or tension; and behavioural symptoms include crying spells and tearfulness, decreased or increased appetite, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, forgetfulness, or hostility.

Record your symptoms on a tracking form to figure out whether you have PMS. You may have PMS if symptoms occur during the five days before your period or once your period starts, signs end within four days or symptoms return for at least three menstrual cycles.

There is no cure for PMS, but symptoms may be managed successfully with lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, supplements, hormone treatments or other therapies. You can increase calcium intake, decrease consumption of refined sugar, avoid caffeine, sodas, nicotine and alcohol consumption, reduce salt intake and increase water consumption to prevent water retention and bloating. You may have to experiment to find the balance of treatments that works best for you.

If PMS symptoms affect your routine and quality of life month after month, and home remedies and over-the-counter medications make little difference, book an appointment with a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

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