Diagnosing PMS

Nearly three out of every four menstruating girls and women have some level of premenstrual syndrome which can include the physical symptoms of sore, tender breasts, headaches, abdominal bloating and swelling of hands and feet, weight gain, fast heartbeat, hot flashes and joint pain as well as the mental symptoms which include fatigue, moderate to severe mood swings, irritability, confusion, changes in appetite including food cravings, crying spells and social withdrawal. As women, most of us are fully cognizant of our PMS symptoms, however before you can actually get a doctor's diagnosis of PMS, there are several things you need to do.

Keep a Journal of Symptoms

Keeping a journal or calendar of menstrual cycle symptoms for three to five months can show a clear pattern of PMS symptoms. The first day you see any amount of bleeding, write Day 1 on your calendar, and print a list of physical and mental symptoms next to your listing. Rate each of your symptoms on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most severe, and write that number next to each symptom. Symptoms will generally begin to disappear on day one in women who have very mild forms of PMS, while those with more severe PMS can have symptoms lasting into Days 3 or 4 of their next menstrual cycle. For a diagnosis of PMS, your symptoms must disappear by Day 4 and not recur until Day 14, and the PMS symptoms must be present in the absence of any pharmacological treatments, hormone ingestion or drug and alcohol use.

Dysfunctional Social Performance

For a true diagnosis of PMS, you must have marriage or relationship issues, confirmed by your partner, have parenting problems, decreased work or school performance or attendance, decrease in normal social activity, legal issues, be contemplating suicide or be seeking medical attention for physical symptoms. Your doctor will want to look at your journal, examine you and rule out any other possible problems before reaching a diagnosis of PMS, and will also likely talk to you regarding your eating habits, exercise habits, work and family.

Test to Diagnose PMS

While there are no single tests used to diagnose PMS, there are some strategies your doctor can use to help diagnose PMS such as a thyroid test. Thyroid disorders are common in women of childbearing age, and PMS symptoms such as weight gain are similar to the symptoms of thyroid disorders therefore this must be ruled out before settling on a diagnosis of PMS.

Treatment for PMS

The treatment for PMS is essentially just relieving the most troublesome symptoms through better nutrition, exercise, medications and natural supplements. Reducing the amount of caffeine, salt and sugar in your diet can help reduce PMS symptoms, while adding Vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium to your diet can help as well. Regular exercise can both relieve and help you cope with PMS symptoms, and over the counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help relieve headache, backache, cramps and tender breasts. Diuretics can help your body lose the extra fluids and sodium, thus relieving bloating, weight gain, breast and abdominal pain. Take diuretics just before you normally experience your PMS symptoms. Cut out alcohol before your period as it can significantly increase PMS depression, and get at least eight hours of sleep per night. Try to schedule more stressful events for the week following your period, if at all possible. All these tips can help make your PMS symptoms more manageable, leaving you with more energy and enjoyment of life. 

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