So you've just been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and you have no idea what to do next. You may have been given a leaflet at best, and sent on your merry way. I feel you, as I've been there too!
PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It affects 1 in 10 women in their childbearing years, however, despite its prevalence, PCOS remains a widely misunderstood condition, and many women are not diagnosed until they seek fertility treatment. It can cause a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, weight gain, acne, and excess hair growth. PCOS can also lead to long-term health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. In this blog, we will explore what PCOS is, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options. It's a brief overview - but as a nutritionist, I am extremely passionate about treating and managing PCOS, because diet and lifestyle should come first - but you're not always told this...
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It occurs when a woman's body produces higher than normal levels of male hormones, called androgens. This hormonal imbalance can cause a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, weight gain, acne, and excess hair growth.
PCOS is also associated with insulin resistance, which can lead to high blood sugar levels and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women with PCOS are also at higher risk for other health problems, such as heart disease and infertility.
Symptoms of PCOS
The symptoms of PCOS can vary from woman to woman. Some women may have only a few mild symptoms, while others may have more severe symptoms. The most common symptoms of PCOS include:
Enlarged ovaries: Your ovaries may contain multiple small “cysts” (these are actually immature follicles), hence the name "polycystic."
Irregular periods: Women with PCOS may have irregular periods or no periods at all.
Excess hair growth: Women with PCOS may have excess hair growth on their face, chest, stomach, back, or thighs.
Acne: Women with PCOS may experience acne or oily skin.
Weight gain: Women with PCOS may gain weight or have difficulty losing weight.
Dark patches of skin: Women with PCOS may have dark patches of skin on their neck, groin, or under their breasts.
Headaches: Women with PCOS may experience headaches, especially during their menstrual cycle.
Infertility: PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
Causes of PCOS
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it is believed to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some of the factors that may contribute to the development of PCOS include:
Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance occurs when the body is unable to use insulin effectively. This can lead to high blood sugar levels, which can cause the ovaries to produce more androgens.
Hormonal imbalance: PCOS is characterised by an imbalance of hormones, including androgens, oestrogen, and progesterone.
Inflammation: Inflammation may play a role in the development of PCOS.
Genetics: PCOS tends to run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic component to the condition.
Environmental factors: Environmental factors, such as exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, may contribute to the development of PCOS.
Diagnosis of PCOS
Diagnosing PCOS can be challenging because there is no single test that can definitively diagnose the condition. However, your doctors will typically look for a combination of symptoms and will perform physical examinations, take your medical history, and carry out other tests to help diagnose PCOS.
Some of the tests that your doctor may order include:
Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to measure hormone levels, including androgens, oestrogen, and progesterone. You can also take an at-home hormone and fertility test, this one by Hertility Health is approved by GPs.
Ultrasound: An ultrasound can be used to visualise the ovaries and check for cysts.
Glucose tolerance test: A glucose tolerance test can be used to check for insulin resistance.
Treatment of PCOS
There is no cure for PCOS, but there are several treatment options that can help manage the symptoms of the condition. The treatment options for PCOS depend on the specific symptoms and health concerns of each woman.
Some of the treatment options for PCOS include:
Diet and lifestyle changes: Diet and lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and managing stress should be the first line of treatment for PCOS
Some medications may be suggested such as: Birth control pills and Metformin
In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove cysts from the ovaries or to induce ovulation
In conclusion, PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It is characterised by high levels of androgens and insulin resistance, which can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, excessive hair growth, and weight gain. While there is no cure for PCOS, the symptoms can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. If you suspect you have PCOS, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to receive an accurate diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan.
If you know you have PCOS and looking for further guidance on how you can manage it, join our ONLINE MASTERCLASS - How to Live Your Best Life With PCOS.