Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a disorder marked by physical and emotional symptoms. It affects women 1-2 weeks before the beginning of their menstrual period.

Are You At Risk?

While the exact cause is not known, PMS may be related to certain factors (eg, environmental, metabolic or behavioral factors) that may make a woman more vulnerable to the hormonal changes that occur during menstruation.

Factors that may increase the risk of PMS include:

  • Age: 25-40
  • Going off birth control pills
  • Major life stress
  • Depression

Symptoms of PMS

Symptoms may include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Appetite changes (e.g., sugar and/or salt cravings, overeating)
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Headache
  • Breast swelling and tenderness
  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Muscle pain

Symptoms usually improve when bleeding starts.

PMS Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

Your doctor may ask you to keep a detailed record of your monthly physical and emotional symptoms. You may have PMS if symptoms occur at the same phase of the menstrual cycle each month.

Stress Management

You can manage stress through lifestyle changes. Relaxation techniques, deep breathing, massage and hot baths can also help reduce stress.

Dietary Changes

Dietary changes may be helpful. Your doctor may recommend that you decrease your intake of salt, sugar and caffeine. Eating small, frequent meals may also help.

Regular Exercise

Exercise may help reduce your symptoms.


Your doctor may recommend medicine, such as:

  • Diuretics to reduce bloating and fluid retention
  • Pain relievers to relieve cramps, headaches and muscle aches
  • Birth control pills to reduce physical symptoms
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to reduce emotional symptoms


Women with severe PMS symptoms, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. Therapy may reduce negative emotions and enhance problem-solving skills in relationships. It may also manage obstacles, frustrations and discomfort.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.