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Can Fam Physician. 2002 Nov;48:1789-97.

Premenstrual syndrome. Evidence-based treatment in family practice.

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Department of Family Medicine, Dalhousie University, Abbie Lane Bldg, QEII Hospital, 5909 Veterans Memorial Ln, Halifax, NS B3H 2E2.



To evaluate the strength of evidence for treatments for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and to derive a set of practical guidelines for managing PMS in family practice.


An advanced MEDLINE search was conducted from January 1990 to December 2001. The Cochrane Library and personal contacts were also used. Quality of evidence in studies ranged from level I to level III, depending on the intervention.


Good scientific evidence shows that calcium carbonate (1200 mg/d) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are effective treatments for PMS. The most commonly used therapies (including vitamin B6, evening primrose oil, and oral contraceptives) are based on inconclusive evidence. Other treatments for which there is inconclusive evidence include aerobic exercise, stress reduction, cognitive therapy, spironolactone, magnesium, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, various hormonal regimens, and a complex carbohydrate-rich diet. Although evidence for them is inconclusive, it is reasonable to recommend healthy lifestyle changes given their overall health benefits. Progesterone and bromocriptine, which are still widely used, are ineffective.


Calcium carbonate should be recommended as first-line therapy for women with mild-to-moderate PMS. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be considered as first-line therapy for women with severe affective symptoms and for women with milder symptoms who have failed to respond to other therapies. Other therapies may be tried if these measures fail to provide adequate relief.

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