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What are some physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Some common premenstrual signs are irritability, impatience, bloating, and constipation.

Dr. Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist

Typical symptoms of PMS include: acne, decreased energy level, tension, anxiety, irritability, depression, headache, altered sex drive, breast tenderness, fibrocystic breast disease, insomnia, backache, abdominal bloating and edema of the fingers and ankles. Severe PMS, with depression, irritability and extreme mood swings, is referred to as premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

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PMS often includes both physical and emotional symptoms. Common symptoms are:

  • Acne
  • Breast swelling and tenderness
  • Feeling tired
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Upset stomach, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Headache or backache
  • Appetite changes or food cravings
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering
  • Tension, irritability, mood swings or crying spells
  • Anxiety or depression

Symptoms vary from one woman to another. If you think you have PMS, keep track of which symptoms you have and how severe they are for a few months. You can use a calendar to write down the symptoms you have each day or you can use a form to track your symptoms. If you go to the doctor for your PMS, take this form with you.

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

If you have premenstrual syndrome (PMS), you may have some of these symptoms before your period:

  • Breast soreness and swelling
  • Tiredness and trouble sleeping
  • Upset stomach, a "full" feeling or swelling in the abdomen
  • Bad pain in your abdomen that comes and goes (cramps)
  • Headache
  • Changes in appetite, or food cravings
  • Feeling stressed or cranky, crying a lot
  • Feeling very anxious or sad
  • Trouble thinking or remembering well

Premenstrual syndrome is a condition that occurs in association with a woman's menstrual cycle. Symptoms can be classified as physical, emotional and behavioral. For example, someone with premenstrual syndrome might have anxiety or depression, which may cause mood swings, trouble sleeping, poor concentration and feelings of low self-worth. Examples of physical symptoms might include weight gain, nausea, headache, food cravings and breast swelling or tenderness. Behavioral changes that one might experience could include aggression or withdrawal from family or friends. These features should subside within the first three days of menstrual bleeding. If the symptoms persist or are severe, it is important to be evaluated by your doctor.

There are over 150 physical and psychological symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Because each woman is different, your symptoms and the severity of your symptoms will likely be different from your friends, and even from your family. There are, however, commonalities that will help you distinguish PMS from other conditions or illnesses. Most symptoms start within 10 days of the start of your period and stop or improve when your menstrual flow (bleeding) starts. To determine if you have PMS, keep a journal to chart your premenstrual symptoms, their timing, and their severity. If your symptoms appear regularly over several months, chances are that you have PMS.

Some of the physical symptoms of PMS include:

  • abdominal cramping
  • acne, cold sore or herpes outbreak
  • appetite change, salt or sweet craving
  • backache
  • breast tenderness
  • clumsiness
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • diminished sex drive
  • dizziness or fainting
  • fatigue, nausea, vomiting
  • frequent urination
  • headache
  • fluid retention and bloating
  • weight gain (up to 5 pounds)

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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.