Premenstrual syndrome

Synonyms: PMS, Premenstrual tension

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine, Obstetrics/gynecology

Clinical Definition

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a condition affecting some women of reproductive age.  During the days before the menstrual period starts, affected women experience physical symptoms and/or dramatic mood changes. If these occur month after month, and other criteria are present, the diagnosis is PMS. Believed to be related to fluctuating levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, severity of PMS varies from person to person, and can vary from month to month.

In Our Own Words

PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, affects women of childbearing age in the days before their menstrual cycle. Mood changes and physical signs, such as breast tenderness and bloating, are quite common. Fluctuating hormone levels are thought to underlie the condition, and in some sufferers, symptoms are severe enough to interfere with family relationships, work duties or school responsibilities. 


PMS is not diagnosed until a number of criteria are met: Symptoms must present in the five days before your period for (at least) three consecutive monthly cycles, and symptoms must disappear within four days after you start menstruating. 

Relevant Conditions
Common Types
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric disorder (more severe symptoms)
Side Effects
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  • Cleveland Clinic. "PMS and PMDD." Disorders Feb. 2011. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) fact sheet.” Updated May 8, 2010. Accessed Sept. 2013.
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Premenstrual Syndrome." Gynecologic Problems. May 2011. Accessed Aug. 2013.
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