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What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe and debilitating form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) with symptoms that interfere with activities of daily living and functioning in women. PMDD most commonly causes severe depressive symptoms, mood swings, tension, and irritability about a week or two prior to periods in women. In most cases, these symptoms go away 2 to 3 days after the period commences. PMDD is a chronic medical condition that occurs in 3 to 8 percent of menstruating women and can affect work, personal life, and relationships.

Causes of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Concrete causes of PMDD have not been found to date. However, hormonal changes associated with a woman’s menstruation cycle are deemed to be an important factor for symptoms of PMDD. Another chemical called serotonin, which is mainly found in the brain, may also play a part in PMDD.

Symptoms of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

A wide range of emotional and physical symptoms are associated with PMDD. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Irritability and anger
  • Tension
  • Fatigue
  • Dizzy spells
  • Muscle spasms
  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Crying spells
  • Moodiness
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Painful menses
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Appetite changes
  • Food cravings
  • Acne and other skin issues

Diagnosis of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

PMDD symptoms can be similar to those of other medical conditions; hence your physician will likely perform a physical examination, review your medical history, and perform or order certain screening tests to rule out other medical conditions while making a diagnosis. You are also expected to maintain a diary or calendar of your symptoms to assist your physician with diagnosing PMDD.

Treatment for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

A number of treatment methods have been noted to be effective in the management of PMDD symptoms. Some of the methods employed in the treatment of PMDD include:

  • Antidepressants (SSRIs): Several types of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medicines have been found to be effective in the treatment of PMDD. These medicines work by controlling the levels of serotonin neurotransmitter in the brain. Some of the SSRIs employed in the treatment of PMDD include:
    • Sertraline (Zoloft)
    • Paroxetine (Paxil)
    • Citalopram (Celexa)
    • Fluoxetine (Sarafem and Prozac)
  • Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs): Birth control pills or OCPs have also been found to be effective in the treatment of PMDD. These medicines work by interfering with ovulation and the making of ovarian hormones. OCPs can be recommended to suppress ovulation and control the menstrual cycle.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers: OTC pain medications have been noted to be helpful in relieving physical symptoms of PMDD, such as headaches and muscle spasms. These pain medicines include:
    • Naproxen
    • Aspirin
    • Ibuprofen
  • Stress management: Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga and spending quality time on activities that you enjoy the most have also been found to help in managing symptoms of PMDD, such as lack of concentration, depression, and irritability.
  • Diet and lifestyle changes: Making healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating a combination of healthy foods, reducing sugary or salty foods, and increasing physical activity may also assist in relieving symptoms of PMDD.
  • Nutritional supplements: Consuming supplemental and dietary calcium of 1200 milligrams daily may possibly decrease PMDD symptoms in some women. Magnesium and vitamin B6 may also help in managing your symptoms.

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