What Causes Breast Tenderness Before Your Period?

Breast tenderness before your period is something that many women experience. The question is, is it normal?

This symptom falls into a broader range of symptoms known as “Premenstrual Symptoms” (PMS). As their names imply, these symptoms have before having your period.

Though breast swelling and/or tenderness is common before the menstrual period, it’s also a symptom of fibrocystic breast disease.

This disease can result in lumpy breasts that are quite painful. These lumps are typically noncancerous (benign) and movable.

In this article, we’ll talk about other common causes for this symptom.

Causes of Premenstrual Breast Swelling 

Prior to your menstrual cycle, there will be drastic fluctuations in hormone levels. This is completely normal, but the timing of these changes will vary from woman to woman.

For example, estrogen will cause your breast ducts to grow larger, while progesterone will cause your milk glands to enlarge.

Both of these hormones typically increase in concentration during the second half of the cycle, and can lead to premenstrual breast swelling.

Premenstrual Breast Swelling Symptoms 

When you’re experiencing breast tenderness before your period, the following symptoms can arise:

  • Heaviness and/or tenderness in one or both breasts
  • Dull aching
  • Breast tissue feels coarse
  • Your breasts feel dense

These symptoms will appear approximately 1 week before your period.

Many women experience these symptoms and automatically assume something serious like breast cancer.

While it’s definitely a possibility, the timing of these symptoms suggest something less serious.

Sometimes these symptoms can be so bad that they affect your day-to-day life. In that case, talk to your doctor about ways to treat your pain.

When Should You Call a Doctor? 

If your premenstrual breast swelling is unbearable or becomes chronic, then bring it up with your doctor.

Keep in mind, though, that this symptom is usually harmless.

In some cases, they could be due to an infection or other underlying condition.

Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • New lumps or lumps that are changing
  • Brown or bloody nipple discharge
  • Breast pain that inhibits your ability to sleep
  • Breast pain that prevents you from performing daily tasks
  • Bumps that occur only on a single breast

Tell your doctors about these symptoms. He or she will perform a physical exam, and possibly other diagnostic tests, to determine what you have. For example, they may give you a mammogram, an X-ray used to see inside the breast.

Your doctor might also perform a biopsy to determine if your breast lump is malignant (cancerous). Other breast imaging tests exist as well, including MRIs, ultrasounds, and a few others.

Treating Breast Swelling and Pain

non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

You can treat breast pain before your period using OTC non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including:

  • Naproxen sodium
  • Ibuprofen
  • Acetaminophen

Take as directed and always consult your doctor if you’re on any current medications.

Note, these medicines can also treat menstrual cramping. For more serious pain and discomfort, your doctor may prescribe a diuretic.

Diuretics can be very effective at reducing tenderness and swelling. However, they can also increase your risk of dehydration since they increase urine output. Drink plenty of water when taking them.

Your premenstrual symptoms can also be alleviated by oral contraceptive pills. Ask your doctor about these during your appointment. They should only be taken if you’re not planning on getting pregnant soon.

Lifestyle Changes 

There are various lifestyle changes you can make to decrease the severity of your breast tenderness before your period.

A potential quick fix is to wear a supportive sports bra.

These provide extra support and can lessen your discomfort. Diet can also affect the severity of your breast pain.

For instance, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine can make your symptoms worse. Foods that are high in salt and/or fat can also increase your pain.

We recommend reducing your consumption of these foods. Various minerals and vitamins can also help your breast swelling and tenderness.

One in particular, vitamin E, can ease your PMS symptoms significantly. Experts recommend getting 400 IU (international units) per day.

Foods That Can Reduce Premenstrual Breast Pain

Here are a few foods that can reduce breast tenderness before your period:

  • Brown rice
  • Avocados
  • Oatmeal
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
  • Nuts (peanuts are best)
  • Bananas

Exercising on a regular basis and drinking more water can also help. In fact, exercise is one of the best ways to reduce the fatigue and pain associated with PMS.

What Now? 

If you’re currently experiencing severe breast pain, take an steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. This should lessen your pain significantly.

However, if your pain is chronic, or is getting progressively worse each month, talk to a doctor to rule out something serious (like cancer).

Most of the time, premenstrual breast pain isn’t serious and will go away on its own. Only in rare occasions will it be the result of a serious medical condition.

Ask a Question: If you want to ask a medical doctor a question that hasn't been answered in one of our articles go to: Ask a Medical Doctor About your Symptoms

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