With a name like that, this syndrome can be deceiving. Not everyone with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) actually has cysts on her ovaries.
But PCOS affects many women in some pretty big ways.
What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder common in women of reproductive age, so it can affect anyone from a teenager to a woman perimenopausal. In fact, it affects one in 10 women of childbearing age. It's caused by an imbalance in a woman's reproductive hormones, which creates problems in the ovaries, as well as elsewhere.
The ovaries are the paired organs that create and store the egg that is released monthly as a part of a healthy menstrual cycle. In the case of PCOS, the egg may not develop as it should or it may not be released during ovulation as it is supposed to be.
Doctors don't really know all of the reasons why some women get PCOS, but it could be hereditary. They do know that your hormones definitely play their part. Women with PCOS will have high levels of androgens. These are hormones that are typically attributed to males, though women naturally have them, too. These higher than normal levels can be preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg. They're also the hormones responsible for extra hair growth and acne, two other symptoms of PCOS.
Research also shows that women with PCOS have a type of low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens, which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems.
Many women with PCOS also have problems that make their bodies produce too much insulin, which can affect the ovaries and the ability to ovulate.
How Do I Know If I Have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
This condition has many symptoms, and you could still have PCOS and not have all of them. Often, they may be masquerading as something else. It's not uncommon for it to take women a while - sometimes even years - to find out they have this condition.
The following may be symptoms of PCOS. If you have any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor to find out if they fit.
Thinning hair on your head may worsen in middle age.
Acne or Oily Skin
Hormonal changes related to PCOS may cause you to develop frustrating and bothersome skin issues that include excessively oily skin, acne, rough texture, and patchy skin discolorations.
Thank the hormonal changes, again.
Changes With Your Period
Your periods may be irregular, or you may not have one for several months. Sometimes you may experience very heavy bleeding.
Hair In Unwanted Areas
"Hirsutism" may be seen as unwanted hair grows in places you wouldn't normally have hair like your face or chin, breasts, stomach, or thumbs and toes.
Approximately 50% of women with PCOS struggle with weight gain or have a hard time losing weight.
Trouble Sleeping or Being Tired
PCOS can have an affect on your ability to fall asleep or to remain asleep. Sleep apnea may cause you to not feel well-rested once you wake up.
Trouble Getting Pregnant
PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility.
It's good practice to never guess at what your symptoms could mean, so if you're experiencing a few or more of them, talk with your doctor.
How Does Your Doctor Diagnose PCOS?
Because there's no definitive test to diagnose PCOS, your doctor will perform an exam on you to determine your symptoms, then may run some other tests from there, checking for possible complications.
The physical exam will include looking for signs of excess hair growth, insulin resistance, and acne. Your doctor will likely talk to you about your medical history, your menstrual periods, and any weight changes. They may do a pelvic exam, perform blood tests, or an ultrasound.
Because of additional complications, your doctor may recommend doing periodic checks of your blood pressure, glucose tolerance, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels. You may also be screened for depression, anxiety, and obstructive sleep apnea.
Treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
While you can't necessarily change what's going on with your hormones, doctors can manage your symptoms individually like infertility, hirsutism, acne, or obesity. Treatments may include medications to help you ovulate or to reduce excessive hair growth, but lifestyle changes are often hugely beneficial.
Weight loss can improve your condition, even if it's only a modest reduction. Moderate exercise and a low-calorie diet could be just what the doctor orders. Weight loss can reduce insulin and androgen levels and may restore ovulation. Not only can it help to make you feel better, but it will increase the effectiveness of your medications and can help with infertility, too.
Limiting your carbohydrates - especially simple sugars - will not only help with your weight loss goals, but can help to lower the levels of insulin in your body. Complex carbohydrates will raise your blood sugar more slowly as they are metabolized.
Increasing your activity level can help you. Exercise lowers blood sugar levels, so it could help to treat or prevent insulin resistance and help you keep your weight under control, avoiding diabetes.
No matter what, it's important to feel good about you! It can be stressful when it feels like your face has decided to go back to high school and won't stop breaking out. Using quality skin care products that address your concerns can make a world of a difference in your appearance, and your outlook!
GLOWBIOTICS products are uniquely formulated to address these special skin concerns of women dealing with PCOS. The probiotic-enriched GLOWBIOTICS Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Duo is a two-step process that helps women address the excess oils, discolorations, texture, and deep, painful acne that can occur with this condition.
If you suspect you have this condition, seek the help of your health care professional and know you are not alone. Many other women are dealing with the same problem, but there are things that you can do to be proactive about your symptoms.