Many women have cramps or irritability in the days leading up to their periods. For some women, however, things can get a whole lot worse. But one treatment may help.
A new study from Yale University found that sertraline (brand name Zoloft) may help alleviate the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in some women.
Sertraline is an antidepressant typically used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and anxiety.
For this study, a team of researchers led by Kimberly A. Yonkers, MD, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Yale's School of Public Health, compared sertraline to a placebo in 252 women with PMDD.
PMDD is a severe, sometimes debilitating disorder that occurs in some women between ovulation and menstruation.
The most common symptoms of PMDD are severe depression, fatigue, irritability and tension. Although similar in some ways to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), these symptoms are typically much more severe.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PMDD is estimated to affect around 8 percent of women. While its cause is still largely unknown, hormonal changes are suspected to play a role.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline have previously been found to be effective for some women with PMDD when taken daily or during the second half of the menstrual cycle.
Dr. Yonkers and team wanted to determine whether sertraline was effective if taken when PMDD symptoms first began.
These researchers divided the women into two groups. The first group took between 50 and 100 milligrams of sertraline at the first signs of PMDD. The second group took a placebo.
The women kept records of their symptoms using several different tracking tools for six months.
Those on sertraline showed improvement in symptom severity, and anger/irritability when compared to those on placebo.
Most of the study patients tolerated treatment well, although some reported nausea and insomnia.
According to the NIH, a healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking and good sleep habits may also help women with PMDD.
This study was published Sept. 9 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
The National Institute of Mental Health funded this research. Pfizer donated the sertraline and matching placebo.
No conflicts of interest were disclosed.