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Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS

Karen is a 29-year-old mother of two who suffers from severe PMS. In the ten days prior to her menstrual cycle, Karen becomes very irritable and "weepy. " During this time, she frequently gets headaches that put her in bed for the day. She craves sweets and hides bags of M&Ms around the house. Her husband complains that throughout this time she is short of temper with him and yells at the children. Karen knows the chocolate is responsible for a weight gain, but says she can't stop the snacking. She asks her gynecol­ogist for advice.

PMS affects teenagers as well as their menopausal mothers and embraces all social classes and ethnic groups. The disease has far reaching impact, since it is not only the woman with PMS who suffers, but it is often a great ordeal for her partner, family, friends, and workmates.

Premenstrual syndrome, otherwise not so lovingly called PMS, consists of varying symptoms that commence a few days before menstruation and completely pass after menstruation has ended. Furthermore, in order to fully qualify as PMS, the symptoms must not start more than 14 days prior to the onset of menstruation and must increase in intensity so that the worst distress is felt immediately before the heaviest of the bleeding begins. The symptoms can be anticipated with cyclic regularity. The severity of PMS symptoms ranges from mild to incapacitating. Symptoms can occur for only one or two days or may begin at ovulation and continue until the onset of menstruation. Actually, dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps, is not considered a symptom of PMS. However, a woman can experience both PMS and dysmenorrhea.

The symptoms of PMS are numerous and varied. They can include premenstrual tension, often called PMT, which encompasses irritability, depression, anger, wide mood changes, temper tantrums, hostility, and crying spells. Physical symptoms can include headache, both tension and migraine types; asthma; epilepsy; joint pains; bloatedness; fluid retention; rhinitis; and acne, and other complexion changes.

Premenstrual syndrome may indeed be the world's most common disease, yet there is still no agreement among doctors as to its cause, whether it really is a disease, or, much less, the best way to treat its victims. Worldwide, there have been over 150 symptoms ascribed to PMS. No wonder there is such confusion, argument, and skepticism about the problem.

As mentioned above, PMS affects teenagers as well as their menopausal mothers and embraces all social classes and ethnic groups. The disease has far-reaching impact, since it is not only the woman with PMS who suffers, but it is often a great ordeal for her partner, family, friends, and workmates. Nevertheless, there is good news along with the bad, in that a wide range of treatments exists to combat the multitude of symptoms afflicting PMS victims.

PMS appears to be a chronic condition that is most severe among women in their thirties. However, many women who are in their thirties when they obtain medical treatment for PMS report that their symptoms started years earlier and gradually worsened. This particular decade of the lifecycle is filled with stress for many women: raising children, holding a job, and maintaining a household. Perhaps these same years may be a time when stress-responsive hormones reach their peak sensitivity in women.

From the forthcoming book "PMS and Menopause Management with 5-HT' by Othniel Seiden, MD & Jane L. Bilett, PhD - Amazon and Kindle