Premenstrual Syndrome: Is It Just In Her Mind?
PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a very real condition that affects an estimated 80% of menstruating women (usually between the ages of 20 and 50). It is commonly defined as the collection of symptoms that occur in coincidence with pre-menstruation, about 3 to 14 days before menstrual bleeding takes place.
The mood changes associated with PMS were described as early as the time of the ancient Greeks. However PMS as a condition wasnt officially recognized by the medical community until 1931. It finally received the name premenstrual syndrome in 1953. PMS was even used as a criminal defense in Britain in the 1980s which greatly increased the interest in this strange condition once though to be all in her head.
So What Causes PMS?
Women of menstruating age have particularly dynamic changes in hormones every month. It is thought that these hormonal changes throughout the body, as well as the chemical changes they cause in the brain, are mostly responsible for the wide assortment of PMS symptoms.
The Luteal Cycle
PMS symptoms occur toward the end of the luteal cycle. This time is characterized by degradation of the endometrium, a special tissue layer which lines the uterus. In the beginning of the luteal phase, hormones released by the ovaries cause the endometrium to grow thick and spongy with tissue and blood vessels. If a fertilized egg is not implanted within a week or so, the ovaries cause the endometrial lining to break down and be discarded through the cervix and out the vagina.
The following may seem like an exaggerated list of symptoms, most of them seemingly unrelated. But never underestimate the power of hormones. One could argue that human nature is simply the result of a complex mix of hormones. Common PMS symptoms include:
- Joint or muscle pain
- Weight gain from fluid retention
- Abdominal bloating
- Breast tenderness
- Acne flare-ups
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Upset stomach
- Tension or anxiety
- Crying spells
- Mood swings and irritability or anger
- Appetite changes and food cravings
- Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
- Social withdrawal
- Poor concentration
Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone are believed to be largely involved in many PMS symptoms. Changes in endorphin and serotonin levels are thought to be responsible for the variety of mood swings many women feel during PMS.
How to cope with a PMS-er
While PMS is a very real condition, it can often be difficult to get along with a woman experiencing the pain and mood swings it brings. The best thing you can do is remain sympathetic, at least for the 4 or 5 days that PMS typically lasts. Offer to listen, provide a massage, or fetch a craving-food. Instead of becoming angry with her seemingly unwarranted mood swings, try to make her laugh. Anything that can prevent stress can almost certainly lessen the pain of PMS.
Sources: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/premenstrual_syndrome_pms/page2_em.htm#Premenstrual%20Syndrome%20(PMS)%20Causes http://www.medicinenet.com/premenstrual_syndrome/page2.htm#3whenwas http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/premenstrual-syndrome/DS00134/DSECTION=3
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