Evaluation and management of premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder

E J Frackiewicz, T M Shiovitz
Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association: APhA 2001, 41 (3): 437-47

OBJECTIVE: To review premenstrual disorders, their varied symptoms, possible etiology, and treatment options.

DATA SOURCES: Published articles identified through MEDLINE (1966-2001) using the search terms premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and the additional terms treatment and etiology. Additional references were identified from the bibliographies of the retrieved articles.

DATA SYNTHESIS: PMS refers to a group of menstrually related disorders that are estimated to affect up to 40% of women of childbearing age. The varied symptoms of PMS include mood swings, tension, anger, irritability, headache, bloating, and increased appetite with food cravings. PMS symptoms occur during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and remit with the onset of menstruation or shortly afterward. Approximately 5% of women with PMS suffer from PMDD, a more disabling and severe form of PMS in which mood symptoms predominate. Because no tests can confirm PMS or PMDD, the diagnosis should be made on the basis of a patient-completed daily symptom calendar and the exclusion of other medical disorders. The causes of PMS and PMDD are uncertain, but are likely associated with aberrant responses to normal hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. For most women, symptoms can be relieved or reduced through lifestyle interventions, such as dietary changes and exercise, and drug therapy with hormonal or psychotropic agents. For PMDD, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have recently emerged as first-line therapy. Certain dietary supplements, including calcium, also may be an option for some women.

CONCLUSION: PMS and PMDD are complex but highly treatable disorders. Pharmacists can improve the recognition and management of these common conditions by providing patient education on premenstrual symptoms and counseling women on lifestyle interventions and pharmacotherapy to relieve their discomfort.

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