New Approach to PMS

By Schieszer, John | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 19, 1995 | Go to article overview

New Approach to PMS


Schieszer, John, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


While PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, has proven to be a popular topic in the media, it has been less popular with doctors and researchers. As a result, few therapies are available for the ailment, and little is known about its exact causes or how best to manage it.

But that's changing.

Clinical studies are under way, with preliminary reports suggesting that some medications used to treat depression may also be effective treatments for PMS.

The medications that look promising are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. In recent studies, this group of drugs has helped in treating the mood and anxiety disorders sometimes associated with PMS, says Dr. Karen Boesch, a psychiatrist at St. Mary's Health Center in Richmond Heights. Drugs include Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

A study on the use of Prozac in treating severe cases of PMS was recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, and some physicians are calling it a milestone in PMS research. The study of more than 400 women was conducted in Canada; about half of the women treated with Prozac showed a significant lessening of PMS symptoms, such as tension, irritability and depression.

The report will pave the way for more studies and a fresh attitude about PMS, which has been considered a "chauvinistic syndrome," says Dr. Gus Smith, a psychiatrist at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur.

Smith says that in the past some women felt that a diagnosis of PMS was just a disguised way of saying women were inferior or moody.

"Women who wanted to be taken seriously disavowed the syndrome," Smith says. "It cast women as being victims of their hormones."

Partly because of this attitude, PMS was considered a politically incorrect field of study, he adds.

Comments from men like "It's that time of month" or "It's all in the head" have not helped.

"PMS is a medical diagnosis," says Mary Stassi, a nurse educator at St. Mary's Health Center who has been involved for the past five years in a PMS program helping hundreds of women. …

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