What does PMS Stand For?

PMS is short for Premenstrual Syndrome. It refers to the physical, psychological and emotional symptoms a child-bearing age woman can experience as she goes through the phase of her menstrual cycle that occurs between ovulation and the start of her monthly bleed.

In the loose meaning of the term, PMS, it is interpreted to mean any difficulty a woman experiences during her menses but the true meaning of PMS is that it refers to symptoms experienced only during a two-week period of time between the time her monthly egg is released and the monthly flow begins. The abbreviation PMS is more frequently referred to rather than the term premenstrual syndrome.

Some say that all menstruating women experience at least one symptom of PMS, while others say only a percentage of menstruating women experience true PMS. There are a smaller still percentage of women who experience symptoms so severe that they are incapable of functioning in daily tasks. This small percentage of women experience what is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD.


The symptoms of PMS include those that are physical, psychological and emotional. The symptoms range in intensity from mild, moderate to severe. The symptoms number 150+ and women can get one or several of them each month. Her symptoms vary not only in intensity each month but she may experience different PMS symptoms one month and other symptoms the next month.

Common PMS symptoms include more acne than usual, abdominal bloating and cramping, breast tenderness and swelling, anxiety and depression, feeling tense or stressed out, insomnia or other difficulties sleeping, back or joint or muscle pain, headaches or migraines, fatigue, mood swings, and a worsening of other conditions and disorders such as asthma getting worse or skin disorders getting worse when she has PMS.

PMS Facts you Might not Know

1. PMS affects both men and women. Although termed premenstrual syndrome, the fact that men’s hormone levels undergo a cycle just like women’s, makes it a useful term to employ for both genders.

2. PMS is a highly individualized condition. No two women are affected in exactly the same way by the symptoms, their severity, or even the duration. This begs the question if PMS is really comparable from woman to woman.

3. PMS is most commonly diagnosed in women of childbearing age. The time frame that it affects them is seven days prior to the first day of menses up to the actual first day of the period itself. In this time span the female body readies the uterus to shed the unneeded lining in the form of a regularly scheduled period. This process of readying the body comes with a host of symptoms.

4. Symptoms of PMS are divided into two categories: physical and emotional manifestations. Physical manifestations include the outbreak of acne, the sudden increase of oiliness of the skin, and also an increase in dandruff. Water accumulates in the body and collects around the waist line, the hips, and also the ankles. Women who are naturally predisposed to suffering from migraines will be at an increased risk of coming down with a serious episode. Abdominal cramping may be present and range from mild pangs to severe contractions that to some might even mimic labor pains. On the emotional side, symptoms include a sudden upset in a woman’s ability to differentiate small annoyances from bona fide problems that warrant a fight or flight response. Mood swings abound, and in occasional instances there are times that PMS will usher in severe depression.

5. PMS is one of the few medically recognized conditions that are the butt of copious jokes, and which even some physicians still treat as outcroppings of female hysteria. As such, they may be overly quick to subscribe psychotropic drugs to women who are actually healthy, but suffer severely from PMS.

6. PMS is easily misdiagnosed as depression, anxiety disorder, or an anger disorder. Conversely, it is much rarer that depression is misdiagnosed as PMS.

7. PMS is so severe that it prevents some sufferers to perform their assigned tasks at work. This results in sick days, and eventually also in job losses when the time off requests exceed the accumulated sick time available.

8. Men who suffer from PMS sometimes find themselves embroiled in legal difficulties, such as court ordered anger management classes for incidents of road rage. Although they might not normally fall into the category of individuals needing this kind of anger management, during the times of hormonal flux they find that their temper is hard to reign in. Since male PMS is not widely recognized or discussed, help is hard to find for them.

Women who are especially at risk for developing PMS symptoms are those who have a high caffeine intake, those under stress, women of child-bearing age, women with a history of depression, women with a family history of PMS, women who have a poor diet or those who consume large amounts of fat or lack calcium in the diet.

Studies have shown that female identical twins have a high occurrence of PMS than female fraternal twins. There also seems to be a higher occurrence of PMS among women who suffer from affective disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression.

There is no cure for PMS and to date, there has not been established a definite causes or causes for PMS.

There is no one definitive test for the presence of PMS or unique physical finding that can verify that a woman is indeed suffering from PMS. A doctor is required to assess the physical findings as well as to ascertain what symptoms the woman is experiencing and how these symptoms are affecting her daily life.

Many doctors ask women complaining of PMS symptoms to record the symptoms she has for a two-month period of time along with how the symptoms affect her life in order to determine if she has PMS. Many doctors use the Calendar of Premenstrual syndrome Experiences (COPE), and the Prospective Record of the Impact and Severity of Menstruation (PRISM), and the Visual Analogue Scales (VAS) to help make the diagnosis of PMS.

Image by Adrian Cousins,, Wellcome Images: Creative Commons License.

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