Updated: Jan 14, 2020
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a group of symptoms in women of reproductive age that occurs due to hormonal imbalances that appear as high levels of male hormones (androgens), having no menstrual period or long cycles, and/or some small follicles in the ovaries.
The research on what causes PCOS is ongoing. What we know so far that PCOS is genetic as it runs in families. Chronic inflammation and insulin resistance also contribute to it. This brings us to nature vs. nurture. It is genetics and certain factors bring it to life.
If you’re reading today’s article, it’s probably because either you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with PCOS.
I can already also see many of the thought bubbles that are probably coming out of your head:
“What is PCOS?”,
“How will it affect me?”,
“Is it dangerous”
“Do I need to worry about getting pregnant?”
I totally understand if you find yourself recently diagnosed with PCOS and feel frustrated and confused about it.
The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone.
About 10% of women worldwide are living with PCOS.
Many of them are struggling with the same symptoms that you are as well as confusion about the causes and the treatment options.
In order to help you cut through the confusion, today’s blog post will explore what it really means to have PCOS and some important details about the diagnosis process.
By the end of the article, you will have a much better idea of exactly what it is that you are dealing with.
Let’s get started!
PCOS And You
PCOS looks different on different women, which can make diagnosis even more of a challenge.
If you have your diagnosis already, that’s actually a great thing because it will be so much easier to move from there into a discussion of your treatment options, which I will cover in the next blog post on this topic.
When a doctor diagnoses you with PCOS, it’s actually considered a diagnosis of exclusion whereby all other conditions that might cause similar symptoms are ruled out.
As a result, PCOS is often considered an underdiagnosed condition.
Some of the symptoms you may be dealing with include:
Absent or less frequent menstrual cycle
Dark patches on skin
Rapid weight gain
Hair loss on your head
Facial hair ( or hair growth elsewhere, known as hirsutism)
You may have also been asked to do blood work, an ultrasound (includes transvaginal), and your doctor will certainly have done a thorough physical exam before arriving at a diagnosis.
And still… diagnosis isn’t always straight forward.
Let’s take a closer look at the diagnostic criteria
The Criteria for A PCOS Diagnosis: Finding 2 out of 3 features that are:
One or two of the ovaries have at least 12 follicles of unmatured or unreleased eggs.
Not getting regular menstrual period (about 8 a year or less)
High levels of male hormones which may appear in your blood work or in the physical exam.
Based on the diagnostic criteria, there are 4 different phenotypes of PCOS:
Multiple cysts in the ovaries, excess male-hormones, and infrequent menstrual cycles.
Excess male-hormones, and infrequent menstrual cycles.
Multiple cysts in the ovaries, and excess male-hormones.
Multiple cysts in the ovaries, and infrequent menstrual cycles.
How Does PCOS Affect Your Health?
Regardless of which type of PCOS you are diagnosed with, your risk for certain negative health outcomes may increase.
Contrary to popular belief, PCOS is not just related to the ovaries or reproduction in women rather it is a reproductive-metabolic syndrome. This means that PCOS affect the ovaries (in the reproductive system), and affect metabolism due to the hormonal imbalances, especially insulin and insulin resistance.
PCOS could affect:
Hormonal balances and fertility.
Insulin levels and the body’s ability to use it.
Body weight and cravings.
Sleep and mood.
Risks of diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
We have to be honest in saying that these issues have the potential to take a toll on your health and compromise your quality of life, but they don’t have to.
In the second part of my blog series of PCOS, to be released soon, I will thoroughly explore the pharmaceutical, dietary and lifestyle interventions that can help you fight back against PCOS and take control of your health.
I hope to see you then!