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Diseases & Conditions

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

(Also Called 'PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)')

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has received much attention from the media, lawyers, social activists, patients, and physicians, resulting in women seeking PMS-related health care in unprecedented numbers. Past research has been hampered by serious methodological problems, including retrospective rating of premenstrual symptoms; no agreed upon definition of the syndrome; mainly open, uncontrolled studies as opposed to double-blind placebo-controlled trials; and unsophisticated methods of patient selection.

Recently, DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) IV has tried to address these methodological research issues by defining Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). A diagnosis of PMDD is made when at least five of the following symptoms occur in the last week of the luteal phase (7 to 10 days before menstruation) and remit within a few days of the onset of menses (bleeding):

  • Affective lability (shifting moods)
  • Marked anger
  • Irritability
  • Tension
  • Decreased interest in usual activities
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Physical problems, such as bloating

For the condition to be diagnosed as PMDD, these symptoms must interfere with work, social activities and relationships and must be prospectively confirmed by daily rating of symptoms by the patient during at least two symptomatic menstrual cycles. A diagnosis of PMDD further requires that the disturbance is not merely an exacerbation of another psychiatric disorder such as major depression or panic. Finally, underlying medical or gynecological conditions (such endometriosis, fibroids, menopause and endocrine abnormalities) which could account for symptoms must be ruled out.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder occurs in approximately 5 percent of menstruating women and, to date, substantial evidence has accumulated linking the phenomenology of premenstrual syndrome and depression. Clinical evaluation should include a comprehensive review of the patient's symptoms and medical history, a physical, a gynecologic exam and basic laboratory tests (such as a complete blood count, electrolytes, liver and kidney profile and thyroid function tests). Psychiatric evaluation should focus on symptoms of depression, seasonal variation of depression, alcohol and drug use, early victimization and trauma, family history of affective disorder (a group of disorders characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a manic or depressive syndrome), alcoholism and current situational stresses.


Many women gain relief from the symptoms of PMDD with education, validation of symptoms, and lifestyle changes, including exercise, vitamins, and a caffeine-free diet.

Medications to treat PMDD can be divided into four categories:

  • Ovulation suppressing hormones
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Diuretics
  • Psychopharmacologic agents (drugs affecting emotional states and physical activities associated with mental processes) – The principal psychopharmacologic agents that have been shown to be effective in controlled studies are SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil.

As always, we must be attentive to the need for individual and group psychotherapy, stress management, or marital therapy in patients with significant psychosocial stresses and conflicts.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 7/14/2009...#4470

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