Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: The beginners guide

Have you been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or worried that you may have it?

According to the PCOS Awareness Association, PCOS affects 10 million women worldwide yet half of these women do not have symptoms.

What Is It?

PCOS affects how the ovaries work. The ovaries become enlarged and contain harmless, underdeveloped, fluid-filled sacs known as follicles, which are unable to release an egg, therefore ovulation does not occur.

Women experiencing PCOS often have irregular periods, or their periods stop, due to an excess of male hormones including testosterone.

It is not known why women develop PCOS and sadly there is no cure, however, there are treatments available to manage the symptoms. There does appear to be a hereditary link and also a link to the amount of insulin a woman produces.

For some people their cells are resistant to insulin, therefore the body produces more insulin to control sugar levels. In women, this excess insulin can cause the ovaries to make too much testosterone, which then stops the ovary from releasing an egg.

How Do I Know If I've Got It?

The signs and symptoms of PCOS usually begin during the teen years or early 20s. The symptoms vary from woman to woman and you do not have to have the whole list to have PCOS.

Some of the common symptoms are:

  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Weight gain
  • Excess hair around the face, chest, lip, nipples and a line of hair from the tummy button down
  • Patches of dark skin in your armpit, groin or neck
  • Oily skin or acne

If you are worried that you may have PCOS the first step is to contact your doctor and book an appointment. They will most likely arrange for you to have a blood test to take a look at your hormone levels.

You may also be sent for a scan of your ovaries. The scan will show if there are a higher amount of follicles in your ovaries which could be causing you to not ovulate and for your other symptoms to be occurring.

It is common that your doctor may also want to test you for diabetes and high cholesterol, as excess insulin can cause a hormonal imbalance. This is not something to be worried about, but finding out if there are additional problems can mean that you are able to prevent further issues occurring in the future.

What Now?

So you've identified with the above, you have seen your doctor and have been diagnosed with PCOS. Although PCOS cannot be cured, the good news is that there are treatments that can help you to manage the symptoms and there is a lot you can do for yourself too.

If you wish to get pregnant then there are options available to you. Your doctor may prescribe a type of fertility medication called Clomifene or Metformin, medications which help to stimulate ovulation. If the tablets do not work there are other treatments that may be offered, as well as fertility injections and the option of IVF. These medications can also help your cycles to become regular.

There is an option of having a simple surgical procedure called Laparoscopic Ovarian Drilling, a heat laser that will destroy tissues around the ovaries that is producing the testosterone and may enable ovulation.

If you are overweight, losing weight can play a significant role in reducing your symptoms and becoming pregnant. The National Health Service in the UK reports that a weight loss of just 5% can be enough to have a significant impact.

Medication can be given to help with additional hair growth. The cream Eflornithine can reduce the amount of hair that grows, although it won't stop it altogether. Normal hair removal procedures such as plucking, waxing, and threading can be used. If the amount of hair is excessive, or you feel self-conscious, then laser hair removal may be an option. If you're not trying to get pregnant then the contraceptive pill can help reduce hair growth, as it stops the ovaries from producing too much testosterone.

Oral contraceptives can also regulate periods and improve acne due to the reduction in testosterone.

Wrapping It Up

Receiving the news that you have PCOS can be a shock, but perhaps also a relief, as you now have answers to your questions and a reason for your symptoms.

Whichever it is for you, it's not the end of the road, and there are plenty of treatments and self-help options for you to try.

It's often helpful to speak to others who have been diagnosed with PCOS, so why not join a support group online or ask your doctor about any local groups.

Meet Rebekah Louise, a freelance writer for hire. Her personal experience, knowledge, and skills combine to create quality content tailored to your needs. When she’s not writing, Rebekah can be found on her yoga mat, running around after her son, or eating cake.

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