PMS Sufferers May Go Through Menopause Earlier, According to New Research

If you suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), like headaches, bloating, or mood swings, you might be more likely to go through menopause before age 45 and experience more severe symptoms during the transition, according to a new study.

Researchers evaluated health data from 3,635 women in the United States who took part in the Nurse’s Health Study II, which looked at the risk factors for chronic diseases in women. They found that those who struggle with premenstrual disorders (PMDs) like PMS and the more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), have more than twice the risk of going through menopause early and are more likely to suffer ​​menopause-related vasomotor symptoms (VMS), such as hot flashes and night sweats.

The health study, which began in 1991, had participants self-report their PMD diagnoses and answer a questionnaire to confirm symptoms. Researchers then followed participants every two years until 2017 to assess when the women went through menopause. 

The study defined early menopause as occurring before age 45, normal menopause as occurring between the ages of 45 and 54, and late menopause as occurring after age 55.

Researchers defined menopause as not having a menstrual cycle for 12 consecutive months, and the participants assessed whether their VMS symptoms were mild, moderate, or severe as well as how long their symptoms lasted. 

​​​​“We found compared to women without PMDs, those with PMDs have 2.67 times the risk of having early menopause,” lead study author Yihui Yang, a doctoral student at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, told CNN.

Researchers noted that their next step was to understand why PMS and early menopause conditions are linked and whether there is a biological process or hormonal fluctuations that connect them. 

While PMS symptoms are more common and can range from mood swings to mild cramps, PMDD is more severe. It can cause physical discomfort like breast tenderness, bloating, cramps and headaches. But its emotional symptoms can include depression and sadness that can include suicidal thoughts, and panic attacks.

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Researchers also noted that depression and anxiety that has persisted pre-menopause is known to trigger PMS and PMDD, but they found no direct association between early menopause and the two mood disorders. 

“We observed a significant association among PMDs without depression and anxiety, indicating such association cannot be explained by comorbid depression and anxiety,” the study said. 

They did however note that PMDs and early menopause have a biological link from the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that is responsible for keeping hot flashes under control, is different in women with hormone-driven mood disorders. The study noted that more research was needed in this area.

The study concluded that the next step was to assess health risks after menopause for those suffering from PMS and PMDD, even though PMDs end at menopause. 

What to do for PMS symptoms

The average American woman begins the menopause transition at 51, but for women who experience menopause before the age of 45, they could be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, psychiatric disease, and osteoporosis.

A 2010 study also found that women who experience early menopause are at an increased risk for overall mortality, and has shown a link between hot flashes and later cognitive decline and heart attacks.

While it’s impossible to know what your own menopause transition will exactly look like, you can begin managing symptoms of PMS or PMDD now. For milder PMS symptoms, over the counter pain medication and rest can help, but for more severe symptoms, it’s recommended to increase protein intake and reduce sugar and salty foods, exercise regularly, manage stress, take vitamin supplements, and even anti-inflammatory medication are great options. If your specific symptoms concern you, reach out to your doctor or health care provider. 

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