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PMS: Premenstrual Syndrome FAQs

What is PMS?

Many women feel physical or emotional changes during the days before their period begins. When these symptoms happen regularly and they affect a woman’s normal life, they are known as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. About 85% of women experience PMS to some degree.  

The following are some symptoms that may be associated with PMS.

Emotional Symptoms      

Physical Symptoms          

Depression Abdominal Pain
Mood Swings Food Cravings
Irritability Breast Tenderness
Crying Spells Headache
Anxiety Bloating or Weight Gain
Confusion Fatigue
Social Withdrawal Thirst
Difficulty Concentrating Swelling of Hands or Feet
Changes in Sexual Desire Gastrointestinal Symptoms
Insomnia Aches and Pains


If PMS symptoms are so severe that they affect your ability to live your life normally, such as causing problems with work or personal relationships, you may have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is a severe type of PMS that affects a small percentage of women.

What causes PMS?

The exact cause of PMS is not clear, but we do know that levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop during the week before your period. Many doctors believe this hormonal drop is related to the symptoms of PMS. Changes in brain chemicals or deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals may also play a role. Too many salty foods, alcohol, or caffeine may make symptoms worse as well. 

What can be done to treat PMS?

If your PMS symptoms are mild to moderate, they often can be relieved by changes in lifestyle or diet. Regular aerobic exercise can lessen PMS symptoms, as well as reduce fatigue and depression. Aerobic exercise (activities like brisk walking, jogging, biking, and swimming) increases your heart rate and lung function. Exercise regularly for the best effects–30 minutes daily is a good goal, even on days when you’re not experiencing symptoms.

Some women find relief from symptoms by participating in calming techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga. Massage therapy is another form of relaxation therapy that you may find helpful. Regular sleeping habits—waking up and going to sleep at the same times each day, even on weekends—can help lessen moodiness and fatigue.

If your PMS symptoms begin to interfere with your life, talk with your doctor. Treatment will depend on how severe your symptoms are. In more severe cases, your health care provider may recommend medication or other treatments.