What are premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms that happens right before a woman gets her monthly period. Many women get PMS, especially mild PMS. When the symptoms are severe, doctors call it premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is not as common.

What are the symptoms of PMS and PMDD?

PMS and PMDD cause body symptoms as well as changes in mood. The most common symptoms are bloating and feeling tired, angry, or worried.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless, or crying a lot
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Eating more than usual or craving certain foods
  • Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
  • Breast soreness or swelling
  • Headaches
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Weight gain

If symptoms are severe, women can have trouble at work, school, or getting along with family and friends.

Is there a test for PMS or PMDD?

No. There is no test. But your doctor should be able to tell if you have it by talking with you. He or she will want to know which symptoms you have and when you have them. To get this information, he or she might ask you to write down your symptoms each day for 2 monthly cycles.

To have PMS or PMDD, you must have symptoms:

  • Only 1 to 2 weeks before your period starts, and not during or right after your period
  • That affect both your body and mood
Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?

Yes. To help feel better, you can:

  • Get regular exercise – Exercise usually helps people feel less sad and worried.
  • Find a way to relax – For example, you can try yoga or relaxation exercises.
  • Get enough calcium – Calcium can help improve symptoms. Try to eat foods with calcium each day. If you can’t, ask your doctor or nurse about taking a pill or tablet with calcium.
  • Avoid salty foods and eating large meals, if you have bloating
  • Take an NSAID medicine to treat pain or headaches – NSAIDs are a group of medicines that includes ibuprofen and naprosyn

You might hear or read about herbs or other vitamins that can help improve PMS and PMDD. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor or nurse before you try them.

Can doctors treat PMS and PMDD with medicines?

Yes. Doctors can treat PMS and PMDD with different kinds of medicines. These include:

  • A group of medicines called SSRIs – SSRIs include Prozacand Zoloft. These medicines are also used to treat depression and anxiety
  • Birth control pills – Some women find that their PMS and PMDD improve after they start taking birth control pills. There are different types of birth control pills. Your doctor will help you choose the one that’s right for you