Unusual symptoms/ underlying conditions- PME
Unusual symptoms/ underlying conditions...
Particular symptoms that indicate an underlying health issue or regularly severe cyclical symptoms that do not significantly improve with anti-inflammatory approaches.
In a nutshell, if your symptoms are regularly severe, they are unlikely to be due to normal premenstrual change, or Premenstrual Inflammation- PMI (formerly known as PMS). You are much more likely to have an underlying condition.
Many conditions are triggered or worsened at certain times in the menstrual cycle due to associated systemic inflammation and other healthy physiological changes .
What are unusual symptoms?
These are all indicative of an underlying health condition.
Please seek medical advice.[Click on individual symptoms to find more specific tips and tricks]
- Suicidal ideation/ intent to self-harm (acute depression/ anxiety/ PMDD)
- Severe negative mood change (depression/ anxiety/PMDD)
- Prolonged or mid-cycle bleeding (fibroids, contraceptive medication side-effects, polyps, gynaecological cancers)
- Irregular (after age 20yrs) or lack of bleeding (PCOS- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, anorexia, amenorrhea, menopause, contraceptive medication side-effects)
- Heavy bleeding- over 80ml blood/160ml fluid per period (polyps, adenomyosis, fibroids, womb cancer, blood clotting disorders, ovulatory disorders, medication side-effects)
- Regularly very painful periods (fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
- Itchy/ painful vulva/ vagina (usually thrush, sometimes vulvodynia, only very rarely cancer of the vulva)
- Itchy vulva with yellow creamy discharge or 'fishy' smelling discharge (Thrush or Bacterial Vaginosis-BV)
- Sudden sharp abdominal pain- not period pain (Ovarian cysts, endometriosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
- Extreme sensitivity to light, sound, odour (Menstrual migraine, with or without headache)
- Weak bladder/ incontinence (Pelvic floor weakness, womb or bladder prolapse)
- Pain during sex/ tampon insertion (Vaginismus, fibroids, or very rarely gynaecological cancers)
What's Premenstrual Exacerbation- PME?
A fancy way of describing underlying conditions that are triggered or worsened by the inflammatory effect of the healthy menstrual cycle.
Symptoms may improve with anti-inflammatory approaches but unlikely to fully resolve without additional intervention - please seek medical advice.
- Iron deficiency/ anaemia [specific tips coming soon- NHS info here]
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Menstrual Migraine
- Endometriosis/ Adenomyosis
- Ovarian cysts
- Anxiety/ Depression
- PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder)
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (HMB)
- Epilepsy [specific tips coming soon- NHS info here]
- Myalgic Encephalitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Diabetes [specific tips coming soon- NHS info here]
- Skin disorders; acne, eczema, psoriasis [NHS info provided]
- Sleep disorders; insomnia, hypersomnia
- Auto-immune disorders; Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Fibromyalgia [NHS info provided]
PME versus PMI...
You may not have heard of either of these terms before...?
PME- stands for Premenstrual Exacerbation- and typically refers to underlying conditions such as migraine, epilepsy, IBS, or asthma that can be triggered by the inflammatory and other changes involved in the healthy menstrual cycle, as well as 'any' chronic condition that gets worse at certain points of the cycle- usually during the luteal phase, and/ or around menstruation .
PMI- stands for (Pre)menstrual Inflammation and is a term coined by Menstrual Matters founder, Sally King. Based on the available evidence, describing cyclical changes in relation to inflammatory processes, is not only more accurate , but also less stigmatising than previous definitions of these experiences e.g. 'Premenstrual Tension- PMT' or 'Premenstrual Syndrome- PMS' . Please see here for more details.
The main difference is that PMI symptoms are solely caused by the menstrual cycle and respond well to anti-inflammatory interventions, whereas PME involves an underlying condition that may be slightly alleviated by anti-inflammatory interventions, but is unlikely to resolve completely without additional medical advice or treatment.
Tips and tricks...
1. If you have any of the regularly severe or unusual symptoms listed above, especially if they do not respond significantly to anti-inflammatory interventions, please seek medical advice.
2. The tips and tricks listed under each symptom type and the steps to reduce PMI may improve your symptoms a little, but they are unlikely to fully resolve without further treatment, so again, please seek medical advice.
3. If your symptoms may be caused or worsened by a contraceptive or other type of medication, we also suggest that you please seek medical advice.
4. We highly recommend that you track your symptoms over at least a couple of cycles on an app, or using our tracker chart, so you can show the pattern to your doctor.
5. If you feel like your doctor is not taking you seriously or is minimising your experiences without examining you or running any tests, please seek a second opinion. Sadly, this is quite a common experience for female patients, and especially so for those from Black or other racialised or oppressed ethnic groups . Regularly severe symptoms, or the above 'unusual' ones, are not normal (pre)menstrual experiences, you deserve to be treated with appropriate respect and attention.
Page last reviewed: Dec 2020
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