How is premenstrual syndrome (PMS) diagnosed?

David M. Heller, MD
Internal Medicine

The medical definition of PMS was established by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2000, and is due for an update. But you only need one PMS symptom, for three consecutive cycles, to meet the criteria for PMS. But - and this is very frequently misunderstood-to be called PMS, the symptom must interfere with your life. Many experts have gone on record saying that only PMDD interferes with your life, but this is inaccurate.

You can learn more from my "What Is PMS" article:

Technically, PMS diagnosis has nothing to do with thyroid testing, though in practice the two conditions can overlap. 

Deborah Davis
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has a wide variety of symptoms, including mood swings, tender breasts, food cavings, fatigue, irritability and depression.  An estimated 3 of every 4 menstruating women experience some form of premenstrual symptoms.  These problems tend to peak in your late 20s and early 30s.  There are no unique  physical findings or laborabory tests to positively diagnose premenstrual syndrome.  Your doctor may attribute a particular symptom to PMS if it's part of you predictable premenstrual pattern. 

While there are no lab tests for diagnosing premenstrual syndrome (PMS), your doctor will rely on careful examination of your medical history. As part of this process, he or she will probably ask you to record the start, duration, nature, and severity of your symptoms for at least two menstrual cycles. If you've already started tracking your symptoms, you may be able to help your doctor make a more complete diagnosis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.