Q: What is premenstrual syndrome? Do all women experience PMS? What are the signs and symptoms of PMS?
A: PMS can cause the following symptoms:
- Water retention leading to bloating or swelling of extremities
- Food craving or change in appetite
- Painful or tender breasts
- Skin problems
- Weight gain
- Backaches or other physical symptoms
- Emotional symptoms (fatigue, depression)
When It's More Than PMS
Up to 10% of women have symptoms much more severe than those experienced in PMS. These women have a condition called "late luteal phase dysphoric disorder," sometimes referred to as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). For women with PMDD, symptoms are severe enough to be incapacitating and require medical attention.
Scientists have been unable to determine the exact cause of PMS or PMDD. Many researchers suspect that these conditions are caused by an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that influence your reproductive cycle. Other theories include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), excess prostaglandin activity (prostaglandins cause abdominal cramping), changes in neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that can affect mood), and changes in opioid peptides (similar to neurotransmitters, they also can affect mood).