There’s a health condition that affects 5 to 10 percent of women, and many don’t even know they have it. Its symptoms are so varied and range from mild to severe, so it can be difficult and frustrating to diagnose. We’re talking about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a female-specific issue that’s so common, every woman should be aware of it.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome affects the balance of hormones in a woman’s body, leading to a spectrum of side effects that vary in each person. The exact cause is unknown, but research from the University of Chicago Medical Center suggest that there may be a hereditary basis and a connection to familial diabetes.
The condition is named for the cysts that commonly form on the ovaries, but interestingly, some women who have PCOS don’t get cysts at all. It’s mainly characterized by the imbalance of three types of hormones: an overabundance androgens (the “male” hormone), high levels of insulin (leading to the production of more androgens), and too little progesterone.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is just that -- a “syndrome” -- because it affects every woman differently. The irregular levels of hormones lead to an array of symptoms of varying degrees, which is one of the reasons it’s so difficult to diagnose. Women with this condition can experience some or all of the following symptoms:
Infertility or difficulty getting pregnant
Excess facial / body hair (known as hirsutism)
Thinning hair (on head)
Cysts on ovaries
I think I may have PCOS. What do I do?
First and foremost, we are not medical professionals. The information in this blog should not be considered medical advice and is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical professional. However, we hope to help guide you in your research and conversations with your doctor.
As mentioned earlier, PCOS is notoriously hard to diagnose. Maybe you’ve been dealing with some of the signs listed above, but you didn’t think they were related to each other. It’s possible you’ve had symptoms for years, or perhaps they’ve just emerged after you settled into adulthood. What’s more, PCOS is the leading cause of infertility; maybe you’re having a hard time getting pregnant, and you’re not sure why.
The point here is to trust your instincts. You know your body best, and if something seems amiss, consult with your doctor and ask about the possibility of PCOS and how you can get tested.
I’ve already been diagnosed with PCOS. How can I regain control of my life?
As of now, there is no cure for PCOS, but there are solutions to help manage symptoms, or completely alleviate them altogether. Your doctor may be able to prescribe you medications to help reduce excess hair growth, regulate your periods, increase your chances of getting pregnant, and more.
Certain lifestyle changes can also drastically improve the lives of women with PCOS. From specific diet plans to exercise to stress management, there are lots of natural ways to remedy common symptoms.
In the coming weeks, we will be posting more about PCOS, discussing in depth some of the ways you can naturally manage your symptoms at home and how to “test” yourself for this condition in the first place. In the meantime, we encourage you to conduct your own research and trust your instincts. We want to help you feel empowered to take control over your life; a diagnosis doesn’t have to control you.
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