Are you a Woman with PCOS?
PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (also called Stein-Leventhal Syndrome) is thought to be the #1 infertility disorder in the world. Affecting between 6-10% of all women around the globe regardless of racial background. PCOS is an endocrine disorder that can (so far) only be treated with medication and not cured.I'm writing this article because I have PCOS and it took me 10 years to get a definitive diagnosis. The problem is that PCOS affects women in different ways. That's right no 2 women share the same PCOS symptoms and due to lack of education and press I've found that women aren't even aware that PCOS exists and that they should be tested. If your a woman reading this, the chances are, that even if you don't have PCOS, you know a woman close to you who does. In many cases this PCOS will go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and this can lead to many more serious complications later in life!A little personal history:The first time I went to the doctor because of missed periods I was 18. The doctor informed me that some women's systems were "just that way," and sent my packing. At 18 I hadn't had a period in almost 5 months... I just turned 30, so we're talking about a relatively recent period in time.A year later I got a chin hair. No big deal, all women have erratic hairs that get plucked, waxed, or otherwise removed! Besides my mother had a chin hair so I figured it was genetic. Embarrassingly enough, within three months I started getting 10 (yes I counted) very thick chest hairs!Now before you all start to think I'm just super vain, PCOS is not just cosmetic (as I will get in to in a minute). But I don't want to overlook the cosmetic symptoms it can cause. If your a woman who has PCOS you know how damaging it can be to self image to suddenly start to have these things happen. It's not just unsightly hair growth in odd places. PCOS can cause male pattern baldness, severe acne breakouts, and weight gain that can be almost impossible to lose! When I turned 21 I discovered how sever some of the cosmetic symptoms could be. I had never had acne as a teenager. My face was devoid of scars that plagued some of my left over high school friends. That all changed literally within the span of a week. I woke up one morning and for no apparent reason my face had erupted during the night in acne cysts. Not just bumps but deep painful lumps under my skin. The breakout was so violent I thought I was having an allergic reaction perhaps to a food or laundry detergent. A trip to my doctor proved me wrong and the diagnosis was cystic acne. The patch that had started on one cheek, despite antibiotics and trying every acne treatment available, within a week had spread to my whole face. It took 6 months for the breakout to clear up. There was little reason to celebrate when my face finally stopped erupting -the damage had been done and I was permanently scarred. At one time I wore makeup to enhance my own features. Now I wear it to conceal the scarring damage PCOS has done to my face. I share this experience with you because PCOS is a serious ailment and this is just one of the areas where it can effect and disrupt your life.Is PCOS fatal? No. Rather the disease causes other potentially fatal complications and symptoms in addition to infertility. These include the following:-Irregular or missed periods-Numerous cysts on the ovaries (why this occurs in some women and not others is unknown)-High Blood Pressure-Elevated insulin levels, Insulin Resistance, or Diabetes-Infertility (generally the result of chronic anovulation)-Excess hair on the face or body (Hirsuitism)-Acne (Seborrhea)-Weight Problems or obesity that is centered around your mid section-Thinning of the scalp hair (alopecia)-Dark patches of skin, tan to dark brown or black (a sign of insulin resistance called Acanthosis Nigricans)-DepressionThe symptoms and severity in which you experience them is completely individual and (I can't stress this enough) is different for every woman. Ironically I was told that stress was making my PCOS symptoms worse and if I were less stressed they would get better. Being told not to "stress" when your face is erupting in cysts -this is irony at its best! In addition to the symptoms that can occur with PCOS, the syndrome itself puts you at greater risk for the following:-Endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer-Type II Diabetes-High Blood Pressure-Disorders of lipid metabolism-Cardiovascular disease-Stroke-Miscarriage-Weight gain I was finally correctly diagnosed at 26 and I credit the internet for this. Before I went to yet another doctor I scoured search engines for disorders and diseases that matched this collection of symptoms I'd started having since the onset of puberty. Every once in a while I'd run across the Syndrome known as PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Disease. I did more research on the subject and was even able to interview one of the leading researchers at the UCLA medical facility. He's researching the genetic component to PCOS and he believes it might be the oldest genetically transferred syndrome. He hypothesis that way back when, when people were primarily nomadic, women with PCOS experienced the highest quality of life. And he has a point. Just think the women who experienced the highest quality of life were the ones who had fewer children (less hardship to the body) and retained the most body weight (because they stored the most fat their bodies had more reserved sustenance when times got lean). Infertility and weight gain -two of the most presented symptoms of PCOS. Anyway its an interesting theory and I was happy to get his insight. So packed with a notebook of information on PCOS I went to the doctor and disputed my than diagnosis of PMD (premenstrual disorder). In the end I turned out to be right and after a blood test and ultrasound (I am one of the women who has cystic ovaries) my diagnosis was confirmed.A diagnosis of PCOS takes some work. First the collection of symptoms you exhibit must be evaluated. A blood test to identify your various estrogen and progesterone levels, and a pelvic ultrasound should follow. Family history and past menstrual patterns also play a role in diagnosing PCOS. Knowing what is going on with your body is always a relief. It gives you a place to start from. You know what your dealing with. Unfortunately with PCOS sometimes this is all the comfort you get. At this time it is incurable. The best of treatments (like the ailment itself) is individual and depends largely on the patients goals. Do you want to have a baby? Lose weight? Manage acne? Lower insulin resistance to help stave off diabetes?Oh yes... As with many areas of PCOS, even the treatment is a fuzzy grey and there is still much debate as to the "optimal treatment." And if you're wondering why something that effects 10% of the female population worldwide and has existed for such a long time is so misunderstood? Well this is largely do to the lack of large scale clinical trials. I guess the medical community has been too busy solving male hair loss and erectile disfunction...There are treatments available though so don't lose hope. Meteformin is prescribed to help with insulin resistance. Antibiotics can be prescribed to heal acne infections and for those wanting children the cysts can be removed from the ovaries (temporarily -they do grow back) by surgery. Dietary modifications can result in weight loss which seems to reduce a multitude of symptoms (this in particular worked for me).The important thing is this: If you feel there is something just not right with your body and you have experienced any combination of the above mentioned symptoms GO to your doctor! Don't give up if discouraged. Remember YOU know yourself best. It's important if you have PCOS to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. The longer you go without a diagnosis the more serious your symptoms and their resulting ailments can become. Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of women and diabetes is at an all time epidemic. PCOS increases your chances of contracting both of these diseases. Your health is THAT important! So if you think you might have PCOS or know someone who does check out the information I've listed below and get help.
This is the entry page of the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association web site.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Center for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - University of Chicago Medical Center
The physicians at the University of Chicago Center for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome are leaders in the diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- American Heart Association
- American Diabetes Association Home Page
- SoulCysters.com: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Treatment & Resources
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) - Take the PCOS Test
Have you been diagnosed with PCOS - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome? Find information on PCOS, polycystic ovaries and reversing insulin resistance - the underlying condition.
- Project PCOS - Awareness, Information, Support
- PCOS Journal
Facing PCOS and its effects, a woman journals her day to day struggles. News, medical breakthroughs, treatments.
- PCOS Coach Home Page