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Pre-menstrual tension: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About pre-menstrual tension

Pre-menstrual tension, often called pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms that usually begin one to two weeks before a woman’s menstrual period.

Pre-menstrual tension: Incidence, age and sex

Ninety percent of all women report experiencing some or all symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome, at some time in their lives.

Signs and symptoms of pre-menstrual tension: Diagnosis

Symptoms can be physical and/or emotional, but they usually go away once the period begins. For some women, the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with their normal lives. During premenstrual tension, there may be tenderness and swelling of the breasts, increased acne, bloating, headache or joint pain, craving for certain food, irritability, mood swings, crying spells, and depression. The symptoms occur every month before the onset of the periods and this is the only way to separate premenstrual syndrome from other disorders.

Causes and prevention of pre-menstrual tension

The exact cause is not known. Though not completely understood, many theories have been put forth, of which the most believed theory is that hormonal changes occurring throughout the menstrual cycle lead to pre-menstrual syndrome. Some studies have also reported a deficiency of serotonin (a chemical messenger in the brain) in women with premenstrual syndrome, which may explain the basis of changes in emotional behaviour, during that period.

Pre-menstrual tension: Complications

Only if the symptoms are severe, one may need medical intervention. Severe emotional symptoms, though, can disrupt work and social relationships.

Pre-menstrual tension: Treatment

Treatment for pre-menstrual syndrome is aimed at relieving the specific symptoms. Breast tenderness may be reduced by wearing a supportive brassiere and reducing caffeine intake. Weight gain, bloating, and swelling due to fluid retention may be relieved by reducing salt in the diet. Regular, daily exercise and practicing yoga have shown to help relieve symptoms of depression, tension, anxiety, fatigue, and irritability. Analgesic medications can be prescribed in cases of headaches and muscle pains.

Dietary changes may also help reducing some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Such changes include increasing complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, potatoes and pasta) and decreasing sugar, artificial sweeteners, salt, caffeine, and alcohol in the diet. Eating smaller, balanced meals at frequent intervals, instead of three large meals may also help.