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About PMS

About PMS

January 13, 2003

Premenstrual syndrome is caused by the hormonal changes that occur in the two weeks before menstruation. Of the estimated 40 million women of childbearing age who experience PMS symptoms, more than 5 million suffer severe mood and behavioral symptoms, a condition known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder that often requires medical treatment.

Physical symptoms of PMS typically include headache, migraine, fluid retention, fatigue, painful joints, backache, abdominal cramping, breast tenderness, bloating, food cravings, heart palpitations and weight gain. Women may also experience dramatic mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability, panic attacks and tension. Symptoms tend to taper off during menstruation, and sufferers usually remain symptom-free until the two weeks before their next menstrual period.

Studies have shown that 1,200 milligrams of calcium, taken daily, can reduce PMS symptoms -- as can regular exercise, even walking just 30 minutes a day. For women with more intense symptoms, doctors may prescribe antidepressants like Serafem (which is a variation of Prozac) or Zoloft.

-- Linda Marsa

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