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Hormones and premenstrual symptoms.

Hormones and premenstrual symptoms

Some women experience marked emotional and physical changes every month that appear to be linked to their reproductive cycles. Scientists studying what is known as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, admit there is no standard way to define it, explain it or treat it, but most believe a hormonal imbalance is somehow involved (SN: 12/11/82, p. 380).

While that may be true, currently available hormone screening tests used with women judged to have PMS turn up no significant abnormalities, according to Steven J. Sondheimer and his co-workers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Routine use of the costly tests for women with premenstrual complaints is not appropriate, they conclude in the October PSYCHOSOMATICS.

The investigators measured several hormones, including prolactin, thyroxine, thyroid-stimulating hormone, testosterone and cortisol. Fairly large samples of women, ranging from 70 to 183 per test, participated in the screening, which took place during the week preceding menstruation for each subject. Symptoms regularly appearing or intensifying at that point in their reproductive cycles included depression, anxiety, hostility, headaches and nausea.

Almost all subjects had hormone levels in the normal range, say the researchers. The few who had elevated hormone levels did not have distinctive or more intense symptoms. Still, the researchers explain, hormone changes may, in as yet undetermined ways, make a woman perceive her body differently at different times during the cycle.

Ellen W. Freeman and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine report in the same issue of PSYCHOSOMATICS that one-third of 239 women with PMS or possible PMS improved considerably after six weeks of treatment that did not include hormone supplements. The approach emphasized education, support groups, dietary changes and the use of vitamin B6. About half of 107 unimproved patients receiving progesterone therapy reported improvement after six months, add the investigators, but hormone and placebo treatments still need to be compared.
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Author:Weisburd, Stefi
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 9, 1985
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