What is adult-onset PMS?

Everything you need to know about the syndrome and how to deal with the symptoms…

Periods are a universally unpleasant monthly experience, and it’s safe to say that no one looks forward to four days of mood swings and stomach cramps. But for some, menstruating is particularly miserable.
 
Ever heard of adult-onset PMS? If not, well then lucky you, because the chances are that you probably don’t have it… yet.
 
We’re all familiar with PMS (premenstrual syndrome): the physical and emotional symptoms that come in the run up to a woman’s period. Acne, tender breasts, bloating and mood swings are a monthly reality for a good 75% of us, but for one in 20 women, however, these symptoms can be much more severe, disrupting daily life.

Stress, anxiety, insomnia, migraines and nausea are all on the list, not to mention constipation and diarrhoea, muscle pain and severe abdominal cramps. Thankful that you’re not one of the unlucky few sufferers? Well don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet.

Introducing adult-onset PMS: an acute form of the syndrome that only emerges in adults. We wish we were kidding.

While it’s true that PMS is usually confined to our late teens and 20s, along with unrequited love, questionable decision-making and ill-fitting jeans, for some unfortunate women PMS rears its ugly head from 40 onwards.

So, for those of us living in comparative bliss, ‘breezing’ our way through ‘that time of the month’ with carbohydrates, chick flicks and the occasional painkiller – we could be in for a shocker in later life.

Now that we are all sufficiently terrified, let’s run through the basics…

Is it possible to prevent adult-onset PMS? Well, we hate to break it to you but no – it’s hereditary and so unfortunately no amount of herbal remedies or stretches are going to help you – your menstrual mood swings were designated at birth.

How can we tell if we have adult-onset PMS?
Consult with a doctor, but feel free to get a second opinion too – unfortunately adult-onset PMS is frequently misdiagnosed. Professor John Studd, a former consultant gynaecologist at London’s Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, told The Telegraph that this is something he is all too familiar with. ‘Women are either ignored, or told they have something else like postnatal depression or even bipolar disorder,’ says Professor Studd.

How can we treat adult-onset PMS? While exercise and lifestyle changes (e.g. avoiding sugar and caffeine) can help with mild symptoms, severe adult-onset PMS may need medical intervention. Professor Studd uses treatments that suppress ovulation, including oestradiol patches and implants. He says, however, that there is a lack of investigation into the use of oestrogen for the treatment of PMS: ‘Nobody is interested,’ he says. ‘Medical experts don’t want to know and psychiatrists don’t want to listen about the role that hormones play in affecting mood, when it’s just so obvious. Women are just supposed to tolerate it and not speak about it.’
 
Well then, maybe it is time that we start talking about it.

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