Most women who are of a childbearing age experience premenstrual or PMS symptoms. In fact, Mayo Clinic estimates that 3 out of every 4 menstruating women will experience symptoms of PMS. Common symptoms include appetite changes, insomnia, headache, fatigue, digestive issues, and bloating. Of these women who experience PMS, about 1 in 20 have a more severe form of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Why some women experience the more intense mental PMDD symptoms has puzzled scientists for years. Thankfully, new research is shedding light on one particular gene complex that many scientists now believe contributes to PMDD.
A Brief Look At NIH’s Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder Study And Data
Members of both the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of North Carolina were involved in this PMDD study. Of the 67 women who participated in this study, 34 had PMDD and 33 had PMS. The researchers took blood samples from each of these women in order to grow cultures of genetically sequenced white blood cells. A select few women were given sex hormone blockers to take over the course of six months. Researchers did this to show how the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone have a more pronounced impact on PMDD patients than PMS patients.
After looking at the cultures and reviewing the data, researchers discovered that there is a connection between the gene complex ESC/E(Z) and PMDD. This ESC/E(Z) complex was more pronounced in women with PMDD. However, it did not form proteins in their bodies. Although there is a clear link between this gene complex and PMDD, doctors are still unaware how it works to produce the symptoms of major depression and anxiety in PMDD sufferers. Researchers also noted that PMDD patients’ symptoms were greatly reduced when taking certain hormone blockers, but their symptoms were intensified whenever they injected them with the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
A Great First Step, But More Research On PMDD Needed
This study is the first in which doctors were able to record and show the differences in the genes and cells of women who have PMDD from those that have PMS. As Dr. Peter Schmidt, one of the head researchers on this study put it:
“For the first time, we now have cellular evidence of abnormal signaling in cells derived from women with PMDD, and the plausible biological cause for their abnormal behavioral sensitivity to estrogen and progesterone.”
Many geneticists now believe PMDD could be an inherited illness. Although this study is groundbreaking for those suffering from PMDD, researchers remind PMDD suffers that this is only the first in a long line of tests. For those who want to read the entire detailed study, NIH published their full report in the January 2017 edition of Molecular Psychiatry. This particular study is entitled The ESC/E(Z) complex, an effector of response to ovarian steroids, manifests an intrinsic difference in cells from women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Why Should We Be Concerned?
While this study is great news for PMDD sufferers, it will probably be many years before a new drug is designed to help manage PMDD symptoms. Perhaps the most important takeaway from this study is the fact that PMDD is a real disease that’s distinct from normal PMS. Believe it or not, many doctors still don’t recognize PMDD as a real illness.
The Harvard Medical School recently found that many doctors ignored or misdiagnosed symptoms of PMDD. Doctors need to understand that the symptoms of PMDD are extremely severe and can be life-threatening. For example, about 15 percent of women with PMDD will attempt suicide. The most common treatment methods available to PMDD sufferers today include cognitive behavior therapy, hormone therapy, antidepressants, and a regular exercise routine. Hopefully, new gene therapy techniques will come out of future studies into PMDD and ESC/E(Z).
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