Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) encompasses a variety of physical and behavioral symptoms that occur in patterns during the second half of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Although most women of a childbearing age, approximately from the late twenties through the early forties, experience symptoms common to PMS, only a select amount experience them in a consistent, patterned manner.
It is reported that only 8 to 10 percent of women experience PMS symptoms severe enough to seek medical attention. This more severe version of the disorder is referred to as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), which is often associated with chronic pain and symptoms.
This condition can have a serious impact on woman’s quality of life. Luckily, by understanding the symptoms and treatments for both PMS and PMDD, women can increase their quality of life and no longer be burdened by the symptoms of these conditions.
What is Causing This Pain?
The biggest question on the minds of women everywhere is what anatomically causes all of the symptoms and sufferingassociated with PMS and PMDD. All of the tissues located throughout the body are sensitive to the hormonal changes that occur during the course of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Hormones that fluctuate include Estrogen and Progesterone, two chemicals that can further influence other chemicals in the brain. One such substance is Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has a large impact on mood.
There is no conclusive answer to why some women experience PMS or PMDD and others don’t. Hormonal levels in women both with and without the disorder are similar. However, it has been found in certain cases that women who develop PMDD are extremely sensitive to the hormonal changes that occur during menstruation, leading to the development of PMS or, in extreme cases, PMDD.
Additionally, there are risk factors that can predispose one to the development of either PMS or PMDD. Women with a high caffeine intake, high amount of stress, are of an older age, have a history of depression or have correlating dietary factors such as low levels of certain vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, vitamin D and magnesium can be at a greater risk than those without these conditions. Although it is not proven that these factors are indeed the cause of PMS or PMDD, there is a correlation.
Signs, Symptoms and Suffering: What are the Indicators of PMS?
The symptoms of both PMS and PMDD are often more severe than the telling signs that a women is just simply getting her period. Although PMS and PMDD share these common symptoms of fatigue, bloating, irritability and anxiety, the other symptoms that accompany these disorders are usually far more revealing clues that a women has something more serious going on.
Variable moods and emotions are one of the greatest signs that PMS or PMDD is the culprit of one’s menstrual woes. Sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, tension and anger are just some of the many different emotions that people may experience when they suffer from these conditions. Additionally, people often become overwhelmed and overburdened by these feelings, leaving them in a debilitative state until the symptoms recede, should they ever recede.
Other symptoms may include excessive sleeping, breast tenderness or swelling, headaches, weight gain and changes in appetite. There are disorders that share similar symptoms with PMS and PMDD, therefore it is always important to visit a doctor and rule out other conditions like depression, anxiety disorders and perimenopause.
Diagnosis: How to Test if it is PMS or PMDD
Surprisingly, there is no miracle test that can decisively prove one way or another if PMS or PMDD is the culprit of a woman’s emotional and physical despair.However, there are key features to test for, and treatment for both disorders can be tailored to fit a woman’s specific needs. The first key feature is that the main complaint being voiced is one of emotional duress that is chiefly associated with PMS, and more severely with PMDD. Typically, these feelings include irritability, tension or unhappiness. However, it is vital that these emotions be more extreme than the general discomfort and distress that can come to be associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle.
The second key feature is that symptoms appear one to two weeks prior to menstruation and gradually dissipate the closer to menstruation a woman gets. Predictable, patterned cycles of symptoms are also unique to PMS or PMDD, making it an essential symptom for diagnosis. The final key feature is the severity of the symptoms themselves. Similar to the emotional duress mentioned as the first key feature of these disorders, the symptoms must interfere with the daily activities of a woman to qualify as indications of PMS or PMDD.
Treatment Options: Minimizing Symptoms and Enhancing Life
There is no cure for PMS or PMDD. However, there are numerous options available to lessen the severity of the symptoms themselves and improve one’s quality of life. For those struggling with a minor degree of discomfort, there are many simple solutions to alleviate some of the suffering.
Exercise is one such option, lessening stress and anxiety in women. Relaxation therapy is another option for the same purpose, offering women the choice of participating in meditation, self-hypnosis or biofeedback. Vitamin and mineral supplements are beneficial to take in addition to other treatments, especially vitamin B6.
Other methods more effective in increasingly severe cases include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and birth control pills. By visiting a doctor, a woman can have access to both of these options, again tailoring a treatment plan to her unique needs. Many studies also indicate that women who experience PMS or PMDD have an underlying mental disorder such as depression or chronic anxiety. Due to the correlation of the emotional and physical components of both disorders, treatment should often address all levels of discomfort or pain, treating both the body and the mind.
Chronic Conflict: Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Chronic symptoms are an all-too-real reality for those suffering from PMS and PMDD. With no holistic treatment for the disorders, many women facing chronic symptoms each month feel confused and hopeless. However, there are four key steps that a woman can take to kick the chronic conflict of PMS and PMDD and live a happy, high-quality life.
Detoxing is one of the simplest ways in which to ease the pain of PMS and PMDD. Removing alcohol, caffeine, sugar, processed foods and bad fats from one’s diet can help avoid some of the bloating and pain often experienced with PMS and PMDD. Sticking to a diet of lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables and complex carbohydrates instead can avoid stress and promote hormonal balance due to closely scheduled meals. Using herbs and probiotics are a good idea as well, avoiding irregularity and the irritable bowels often associated with these disorders.
Taking the right supplements everyday is another good way to help maintain the vitamins and minerals that a woman’s body needs during her menstrual cycle, hence avoiding the pain that accompanies PMS and PMDD. Magnesium, multivitamins, fish oil and vitamin E are just some of the supplements that can help reduce symptoms such as breast tenderness, irritability and depression.
Visiting a doctor is another great way to fight off the annoying and encumbering symptoms of PMS and PMDD. Different types of PMS are caused by different deficiencies and also come with different treatments, making correct diagnosis a necessity. For women who have experienced symptoms for a few months at least, visiting a doctor is a great way in which to correctly address all of the problems being experienced.
A final way to combat the chronic symptoms of PMS and PMDD is to use exercise, relaxation and sleep to cope with and reduce the stress which can further exacerbate symptoms. Hormonal balance and stress management are essential outcomes of a proper night of sleep. Additionally, aerobic exercise can help improve mood and reduce pain. Along similar lines, women can use yoga or other relaxation techniques to manage stress-related symptoms such as headaches, anxiety or sleeping problems.
So, Is There Hope?
There is hope for women suffering from PMS and PMDD. The chronic pain associated with the disorders can be managed and addressed with proper guidance from a doctor and the right treatment methods. Although there is no decisive evidence as to who experiences these disorders and why, family history, lifestyle habits and demographics all appear to play a large role in the acquisition of the disorder. Recognizing the patterns of symptoms and their subsequent effect on one’s life is one of the most crucial steps for diagnosis and treatment, allowing a doctor to personalize a plan around an individual’s unique needs.
Self-care and self-awareness are the two easiest ways in which to combat the chronic pain of PMS and PMDD, offering women a way to live their lives without the constant worry of what effects their menstrual cycle may have on their daily life. Premenstrual Syndrome and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder cannot be eliminated, but by addressing and managing symptoms, coping is the key to a normal, satisfying life.