What causes premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health

PMS is caused by sensitivity to the changing hormones of the menstrual cycle, but perhaps not in the way many people assume. Contrary to the assumption that we are unhappy with "high hormone levels," it is actually the drop, temporary decrease and then resumption of hormone levels that causes PMS. We are familiar with the ovarian production of first estrogen and then progesterone each menstrual cycle. If pregnancy does not occur, the ovaries stop producing the hormones for that cycle. This drop in hormones triggers the menstrual bleeding. It also triggers the typical symptoms in women who have PMS. When researchers had women take a series of unmarked pills with, then without, hormones, women reported PMS symptoms primarily on the hormone-free days.

Dr. Howard S. Smith
Pain Medicine Specialist
Millions of women suffer from premenstrual syndrome, including breast tenderness, cramping, and backache. While there is no known cause or cure for PMS, researchers believe that normal cyclical changes in a woman’s hormones may interact with neurotransmitters, including serotonin. This may result in the mood swings, pain, and other physical symptoms of PMS.

The causes of PMS are not clear. It is linked to the changing hormones during the menstrual cycle. Some women may be affected more than others by changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. Stress and emotional problems do not seem to cause PMS, but they may make it worse.

Diagnosis of PMS is usually based on your symptoms, when they occur, and how much they affect your life.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

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