Extra moody? Scientists discover ‘severe PMS genes’ and promise treatment is on the way

Got menstrual cramps? We hear you. File Photo/Getty Images

You’re moody, tired and hungry: with those symptoms you know your time of the month is here. In a new study, U.S. doctors say they’ve uncovered genes that make some women more vulnerable to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and its fiery counterpart, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

The findings, out of the National Institute of Health, are good news for women: the scientists behind the work say that their study shows women can’t just “control” their symptoms. They also say that understanding the genetic mechanisms behind PMS paves the way to building treatment options.

“This is a big moment for women’s health, because it establishes that women with PMDD have an intrinsic difference in their molecular apparatus for response to sex hormones – not just emotional behaviours they should be able to voluntarily control,” Dr. David Goldman, one the study’s co-authors, said in a statement.

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PMDD affects only two to five per cent of women, the researchers say. Its symptoms include:

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  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Anxiety or tension
  • Extreme moodiness
  • Marked irritability or anger

PMS is much more common. Its symptoms include:

  • Acne
  • Swollen or tender breasts
  • Feeling tired
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Bloating, appetite changes or food cravings
  • Muscle, back and joint pain

The NIH study, published this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, suggests that PMS is 56 per cent genetic. Turns out, the same may apply to PMDD, too.

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When the researchers played with estrogen and progesterone levels in women, they learned that they could lessen PMDD symptoms. They found that a specific gene complex – ESC/E(Z) were “over-expressed” in women battling PMDD compared to controls.

“For the first time, we now have cellular evidence of abnormal signalling in cells derived from women with PMDD, and a plausible biological cause for their abnormal behavioural sensitivity to estrogen and progesterone,” Dr. Peter Schmidt said.

Understanding what may trigger PMDD could shed light on how to identify women who are most susceptible to it and pave the way to treatment options, the doctors say.

Read the full findings.


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