What is "PMS" and who gets it? Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)—"Premenstrual" means before your period; syndrome is another word for a condition or group of symptoms. PMS is a condition some women get in the week before their periods. It usually affects women in their 20s to 40s. If you suffer from cramps, backaches, bloating, mood swings or mild depression before your period, this section may be important for you, even if you are just having a few symptoms of PMS. Causes of PMSThere seem to be many PMS causes. They include: Hormones—These are chemicals produced by the ovaries that affect the brain and the signals it sends to different parts of the body. Hormone levels change throughout your menstrual cycle, and sometimes these changes cause some women to get PMS. Brain chemistry—A brain chemical called serotonin is being studied a lot lately because many scientists believe that not having enough serotonin in your brain could be causing some PMS symptoms, like sad feelings. Other problems with your body—The thyroid is a gland in your neck that controls many things, like the way you metabolize food. Some women have thyroids that don’t work properly, which makes them feel like they have PMS. A doctor who is treating you for PMS should test your thyroid to make sure that it isn’t the real problem. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies—Some scientists believe that taking a daily vitamin supplement will help relieve PMS symptoms. B6, D, and minerals like calcium and magnesium are really important. Symptoms of PMSPMS is a very unpredictable condition. Different women have different combinations of symptoms. But your symptoms of PMS will probably remain the same for you from month to month—sometimes they’ll be more intense, sometimes less. For example, your friend may have backaches and you might feel some bloating. Chances are your friend will probably always have backaches before her period, and you will continue to have bloating before yours, although sometimes it will be worse than other times. The symptoms usually start seven to ten days before your period, and may get a little worse right before menstruation begins. When your period starts, the symptoms usually go away. Symptoms of PMS include the following: Emotional Symptoms Anxiety—you worry so much about sleeping late and missing an exam that you lose sleep the night before Irritability—you snap at your friends for stupid things that usually wouldn’t bother you Fatigue—you’re tired—even in the middle of the day Depression—you feel sad a lot of the time Mood swings—you feel really happy, then really sad, and sometimes really angry, frequently within the same day or even the same hour Forgetfulness—you can’t remember simple things—like phone numbers Anger—you get mad a lot, and you can’t control it Difficulty concentrating—you can’t focus on homework or pay attention in conversations Tension—you’re nervous or you feel stressed Restlessness—you can’t keep still and feel "antsy" Over-sensitivity—your friends decide to go ice-skating and you "just know" that they really don’t want to you go, so you stay home by yourself Changes in sexual interest—you think about kissing and fooling around a lot more or a lot less than usual Low self-image and social withdrawal—you stay home instead of going out with friends because you have a new zit, or you just decided you don’t like any of your friends anymore Crying spells—you cry a lot without a reason, or for a tiny reason like hot chocolate that isn’t quite hot enough Decreased interest in usual activities—none of the things you like to do sound like fun anymore Physical Symptoms Abdominal bloating—your pants size increases from 8 to 10 right before your period Breast swelling and tenderness—they feel puffy and maybe a little sore Swollen ankles or fingers from fluid retention—your shoes, gloves or rings feel tight and your ankles and hands look unusually puffy Increased appetite—you want to eat a lot more than usual Headache—you have unusually long-lasting headaches Weight gain—you gain a few pounds right before your period Acne—you have more pimples than usual Food cravings—you crave certain foods right before your period—chocolate, meat or salty foods are common Constipation—you have difficulty having a bowel movement Palpitations—you feel your heart flutter or race Upset stomach—you feel like you might throw up Joint aches—your knees, elbows, ankles and wrists ache even though you haven’t had an injury Muscle spasms—you have a muscle that twitches by itself Increased thirst—your mouth feels really dry a lot of the time Clumsiness—you bump into things a lot Changes in sleep habits—you sleep a lot, or you can’t go to sleep at night, or you wake up a lot during the night Is it really PMS? PMS has become the brunt of a lot of bad jokes—guys even joke that they have PMS! It’s not so unusual for people to blame PMS for other problems or illness. So it’s important that you know if what you’re going through really is PMS. How to figure out if you have PMS Keep a journal or a calendar. (Try the Period Predictor www.beinggirl.com/article/period-calculator.) Write down which symptoms you get and when. Rate each symptom by how bad it is—mild, moderate, or terrible and nasty! Then write down when you get your period. If you get the symptoms of PMS ten to three days before your period, and only during that time, and if they go away when your period starts, chances are that it really is PMS. If you have the symptoms at all times of the month, you might just be having a challenging case of puberty. The good news is: puberty ends. The list of things to do to relieve PMS (above) should help you anyway, but if you have a lot of symptoms, see a doctor. If you are past puberty and have PMS symptoms that hang on long after your period starts, you may have other conditions that need to be treated. For example, dizziness that lasts throughout the month is something that you should see a doctor about. If you feel sad or lose interest in fun activities for a long period of time, there may be something else going on besides PMS. Use your common sense. Don’t ignore any symptom or pain that goes on too long. Click here www.beinggirl.com/article/pms-treatment to learn about things you can do to help prevent PMS, or at least get relief from some of the symptoms. Learn about pms and get helpful tips and advice from teen girls at BeingGirl.