Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a lot more common than a lot of women think. In fact almost 1 in 5 women are believed to suffer from some form of this condition. PCOS is associated with ovarian function and is mainly diagnosed by after testing three main factors. Understanding PCOS and the symptoms associated with it is key to finding the right treatment.
Understanding PCOS: The Symptoms
- Irregularity in menstrual cycle – this also include symptoms of oligomenorrhea (light or/and infrequent with long gaps) or amenorrhea (absence) of the menstrual cycle.
- Over-production of androgens – this is linked to production of male hormones which can cause symptoms such as hair growth around the mouth, chest, back and arms. You can also develop acne and very oily skin.
- Development of cysts – PCOS can cause new cysts to form, which merge with existing cysts. This causes problems with ovulation as sometimes the egg cannot be released.
Some women do not show any of these signs and can often be misdiagnosed. There are other symptoms which can further help you determine whether or not you should get a second opinion. Weight gain, hair loss and oily skin can also indicate development of PCOS so it is definitely worth mentioning any of these signs to your GP. Of course, you may not present any of these symptoms at all, but if you do feel that something isn’t quite right, then go and see your doctor and he/she will be able to find a diagnosis.
PCOS can also play a large in increasing the risk of developing other health problems, such as diabetes and high cholesterol which is linked with cardiovascular problems.
Understanding PCOS: The Causes
The main cause of PCOS is genetics, and the condition is often associated with either direct or first-degree family occurrence. There are however other factors that could trigger the condition, and understanding them will help you to better understand PCOS.
- Weight gain – this is a conflicting trigger as PCOS and weight gain often go hand in hand. Women who are already suffering from weight problems however, are more at risk of developing the condition.
- Diabetes (type 1 and 2) – many studies have been done which have found a direct link with diabetes and the development of PCOS. Those girls who are type 1 (born with diabetes) are around 40% more at risk where as those who suffer from type 2 diabetes (due to life style).
- Epilepsy and other Mental Disorders – there has been suggested links between these disorders and PCOS. Again, there isn’t efficient scientific data to support this as many argue that it may actually be the medication used to treat these orders that may be putting women at risk rather than the condition itself. Valproic Acid, which is used to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder and even migraines, is associated with side effects which often mimic the signs of PCOS. These can include disturbances in the menstrual cycle, as well as hormonal changes.
Understanding PCOS: The Treatments
The choice of treatment is very specific to the individual as it is based on the symptoms rather than the condition as a whole.
Starting a contraceptive pill can help to induce and manage regularity in periods. These can also help to balance out hormones, as well reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, which is associated with irregularity.
For Androgen Related Symptoms
The combined contraceptive pill (such as co-cyprindiol, Yasmin etc) can help with reducing the amount of male hormones. This in turn helps to reduce excessive hair growth. Physically removing hair is also effective: waxing, laser removal and IPL may be available on NHS for certain women.
The combined contraceptive pill also helps to clear up your skin. Acne in PCOS suffereres is more hormonal and due to the presence of male hormones, so counteracting them with female hormones will help. You can also manage acne by using the right skincare. Purifying products have proven to be highly effective at managing oil control and reducing blemishes. We have a great post on how to manage hormonal skin with the right products from our Skincare Expert, Amelia.
Most women are able to still conceive, however those who may be struggling should speak to their doctor. Certain medication such as Clomifene (which induces egg release) and Metformin (reduces insulin resistance) can help with conceiving. If these are not enough, IVF and many other artificial insemination options are also available.
Losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to manage PCOS. This will not only help you to feel better, but can also improve insulin resistance, cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart related diseases.
PCOS may sound quite scary but with right management and treatment, you can reduce a lot of the complications. As always, if you have any other questions or would like to find out more about PCOS then please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.