PMS and Fibromyalgia

One pithy definition of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) was posted (no doubt by a man) on the Urban Dictionary a few years ago:

"A powerful spell that women are put under about once every month, which gives them the strength of an ox, the stability of a Window's OS, and the scream of a banshee. Basically, man's worst nightmare."

How Does Fibromyalgia Affect PMS?

Now, while some of us may find that a bit offensive, overall, we'll probably all laugh a little because we can identify some truth in it.

PMS Symptoms Similar to Fibromyalgia

PMS is triggered by hormonal changes of the estrogen and progesterone levels in a woman's body that result from ovulation. It occurs about two weeks before menstruation begins. Ovulation provides a glut of estrogen in the body and for some women this spells very intense symptoms. There are an estimated 40 million sufferers of PMS and more than five million of them require some type of medical treatment to address the symptoms of marked mood and behavioral changes. There are more than 150 symptoms that have been attributed to PMS; some of them are listed here:

· feeling "out-of-control"

· anxious

· depressed

· uncontrollable crying spells

· headache or migraine

· fatigue

· fluid retention

· constipation

· painful joints

· backache

· abdominal cramping

· weight gain

· palpitations

· emotional and behavioral changes including irritability and tension

· lack of coordination

· decreased work or social performance

· altered libido

As you can see, many of these symptoms are consistent with another affliction that plagues women, fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). The majority (90%) of people with FMS is women, and as with FMS, PMS has no exact cause. Like fibromyalgia syndrome, PMS is generally believed to stem from neurochemical changes within the brain. It is only recently that hormonal changes have been recognized as a possible precursor to PMS.


Is There a Connection Between PMS and FMS?

There are some theories that fibromyalgia and premenstrual syndrome are connected. In fact, PMS is regarded as a symptom of fibromyalgia. What we do know is that women with FMS are more like to report having menstrual issues than women without FMS and the symptoms of PMS tend to be more severe in women with FMS. The reason for this is likely the fact that people with fibromyalgia have a heightened sensitivity to pain, so the pain in the low back, lower abdomen and upper legs can be much greater. Not only are the physical symptoms of PMS closely related to FMS, the psychological ones are, too. Since women with FMS have lower levels of the hormone progesterone than women without the syndrome, they are already estrogen dominant. When estrogen takes off during the post-ovulation phase of menstruation then the estrogen imbalance is higher than ever. This means more intense mood swings, irritability, and depression for women with FMS when they are suffering with premenstrual syndrome.

Treatment for PMS to Reduce Both PMS and FMS Symptoms

In many cases the treatment of PMS relied on the use of sedatives and tranquilizers for women who suffered extreme symptoms. Since the syndrome is caused by an excess of estrogen and a deficiency of progesterone in the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle, treating the hormonal imbalance with supplementation of additional progesterone was suggested in the 1960s. However, this treatment hasn't proven to be successful for many women. Later studies showed that the use of 100 to 200mg of Danazol two times a day to suppress the excess estrogen has been very effective. Danazol is a synthetic steroid hormone that mimics androgens (male sex hormones) that are found in the body. The drug acts on the pituitary gland in the brain that controls the amounts of hormones produced by the body. Gonadotrophins, the pituitary gland hormones, stimulate the production of estrogen and progesterone, the female hormones that govern menstruation and ovulation. Danazol can be used to decrease the production of estrogen to treat premenstrual syndrome and thereby control the overwhelming symptoms of PMS experienced by women with fibromyalgia.

Of course, no drug should be taken without the express direction of a medical professional.

Premenstrual syndrome and menstrual issues can be worse from women with FMS. Learn more about the menstrual cycles and fibromyalgia here.

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