girl with PMS holding abdomen next to calendar showing period dates
April 24, 2024

Premenstrual syndrome, also known as PMS, affects nearly 48 percent of women who are of reproductive age. Of those women, approximately 20 percent experience symptoms severe enough to affect their daily routine. Others have mild to moderate symptoms. A small number of women experience much more severe symptoms of PMS with a condition known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Keep reading to find out more about PMS, including causes, symptoms, and recommended treatments.

What Causes PMS?

woman's hands holding diagram of uterus and ovaries

Even though most women experience PMS symptoms at some point in their lives, researchers do not know exactly what causes the syndrome. Many experts believe that changes in levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone play a role. These hormones fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, and they reach a peak and then decline rapidly during the luteal phase following ovulation. This changing body chemistry affects some women more than others. Existing mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder could increase your chances of experiencing PMS or PMDD. Certain lifestyle habits may also affect the severity of PMS symptoms, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Eating a diet high in fat, sugar, and salt
  • Not getting enough quality sleep
  • Binge drinking or heavily drinking alcohol regularly
  • Experiencing high levels of stress
  • Lacking regular physical activity

Symptoms of PMS

All women experience PMS differently. Symptoms can include physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. A woman may experience just one symptom, or she may experience many each month. Most women, however, only experience a few. Here’s a list of potential symptoms of PMS.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Bloating or gassiness
  • Cramping
  • Swollen or tender breasts
  • Headache
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Clumsiness
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain related to fluid retention
  • Alcohol intolerance
  • Greasy hair

Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Unusual anger and irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Food cravings
  • Appetite changes
  • Trouble with memory or concentration
  • Feeling tense, anxious, overwhelmed, or out of control
  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Mood swings
  • Crying
  • Not wanting to be around people
  • Decreased sex drive


woman with PMS holding abdomen and head

An estimated 3 to 8 percent of menstruating women experience more drastic and overwhelming symptoms of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS but are much more severe and have a larger negative impact on your daily routine and quality of life. PMDD is recognized as a mental health condition, but many people never seek help for symptoms and those who do often experience dismissal and insufficient support from healthcare professionals.

Symptoms of PMDD may include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Intense sadness, depression, and crying spells
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Sudden mood shifts
  • Lack of interest in daily activities
  • Insomnia
  • Binge eating
  • Painful cramping
  • Bloating
  • Extreme anger, irritability, or anxiety
  • Trouble thinking or focusing

If you experience symptoms of PMDD, you should talk to a doctor. They may recommend working with a therapist or psychiatrist for treatment. Some strategies that can help you manage PMDD could include limiting caffeine, daily exercise, birth control, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medication.

Treatment for PMS

There is no cure for PMS, but there are some things you can do to help ease your symptoms. For mild to moderate symptoms, you can try the following strategies:

  • Drink plenty of water and herbal teas to help relieve bloating and cramping.
  • Eat a balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Cut back on caffeine, salt, sugar, and alcohol.
  • Increase vitamin D levels through sunlight or vitamin D supplements.
  • Try supplementing with magnesium, calcium, folic acid, and vitamin B6 for cramps and mood symptoms.
  • Aim to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night to relieve fatigue and improve overall well-being.
  • Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day to help relieve bloating, cramping, anxiety, and depression symptoms.
  • Set aside time for daily self-care, which may include exercise, hobbies, relaxation, or social interaction.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for headaches, muscle aches, or cramping.
  • Use heating pads on your abdomen for cramps.
  • Take diuretics to help relieve bloating and swollen breasts.

If PMS symptoms affect your quality of life and daily activities each month, and over-the-counter medications and home remedies aren’t making an impact, you should connect with a healthcare professional. Severe symptoms may require a more in-depth treatment approach. Thankfully, symptoms do often improve with treatment.

Health Advice from Pharmacy Experts

Here at The Drug Store Pharmacies, we provide personalized, professional care that you can count on. Our expert pharmacy team can provide advice and recommend supplements, over-the-counter medications, and home remedies to help you find the relief you need from your PMS symptoms. Schedule a wellness consultation today to talk to one of our pharmacy experts about your health needs and goals so we can determine the best plan of action to help you feel your best!