PMS Gone Wild: When It Might Be Time to See Your Doctor

woman with pms

We laugh about PMS-ing with our friends and roll our eyes when guys try to crack jokes, but truthfully speaking, PMS is one of the most irritating experiences we encounter as women. PMS, or Premenstrual Syndrome, is linked to a woman's menstrual cycle and usually hits about 1 or 2 weeks before we get our period. According to the Office on Women's Health, at least 85% of women experience 1 or more symptoms of PMS each month. Symptoms can be painful, vexing and just downright annoying.

However, when those symptoms become unbearable or begin to affect your daily routine, you may be suffering from a more serious condition known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Around 3% to 8% of women develop these more severe PMS-type symptoms prior to their period. Below are some of the common symptoms associated with both PMS and PMDD. If you are exhibiting 5 or more symptoms of PMDD, it might be time to give your doctor a call.

talking to doctor

Causes: While there is not one known cause of PMS, many professionals agree that it could be due to changes in hormone levels, or a chemical change in the brain. While stress, depression and emotional problems can enhance the symptoms of PMS, they are not generally accepted as the cause. Other perspective causes may include: low levels of vitamins, the consumption of too much salty food (which makes you retain fluid and gives you that bloated feeling) and drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, which tend to alter our moods and energy levels.

Symptoms: There is a wide variety of symptoms that relate to PMS. Some of these include: acne, swollen or tender breasts, fatigue, bloated stomach, irritability and mood swings. For a more comprehensive list of PMS symptoms, check out the Office on Women's Health.

The symptoms for PMDD tend to be more serious or painful than the symptoms of PMS. For instance, women with PMDD often suffer from feelings of sadness, despair, or even suicide. Panic attacks, mood swings, frequent crying and lasting anger or irritability are also common signs. For a more complete list of PMDD symptoms, click here to be taken to the Office on Women's Health website.

bloated woman holding her stomach


Treatments: There are many different treatment options that may work for you, ranging from natural methods to medication:

  • Lifestyle changes: Exercising for at least 30 minutes most days of the week often helps to relieve some of the pressure and pain in the abdomen as well as fatigue. Also, eating a healthy diet free of sugary and salty food, alcohol, and caffeine, getting 8 hours of sleep a night, and finding healthy ways to deal with stress, will go a long way in alleviating your PMS symptoms.
  • Medication: Especially for PMDD, medication may be necessary. If milder medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Naproxen are helping with pain but doing nothing for your mood, you may want to speak with your doctor about antidepressants.
  • Diuretics: Diuretics (or water pills),will help reduce any excessive fluid buildup and go a long way in getting rid of the pre-period bloating.
  • Alternative therapies: Natural medications or remedies such as folic acid, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6 may help to eliminate symptoms or, at the very least make them more manageable.

Just remember, if your symptoms are veering dangerously close to the symptoms for PMDD, then you should see your doctor as soon as possible. The pain, both emotional and physical, can be treated! For more information on PMS and PMDD, check out these sites: Office on Women's Health, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists