PCOS

By Agnieszka Dębowska

“Your body is your most priceless possession… So, go take care of it!” – Jack Lalanne

As we head towards 2020, the percentage of women affected by PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is alarming and what’s more, many don’t know that they have it.

  • About 12% of young women suffer from PCOS
  • About 40% of women are infertile due to PCOS
  • 50-70% of women are insulin resistant due to PCOS

However, the good news is that more and more women are being diagnosed and treated. When left untreated, PCOS can cause serious long-term complications. Listen to your body, and if you are experiencing symptoms, consult with your doctor or gynecologist.

 

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a genetic disorder of which the cause is unknown.  It is irreversible and women with PCOS experience hormonal changes manifested by high levels of LH and androgens, and low levels of FSH. This all leads to the dysregulation of ovulatory cycles.

Symptoms may seem unrelated. Below are the most common:

  • unjustified weight (especially in the waist)
  • scanty and irregular menstruation
  • severe acne – also on the chest and back
  • excessive hair on the face, thighs, buttocks and back
  • thinning hair (so-called bend)
  • hypertension
  • elevated blood sugar
  • microtubules in the ovaries (visible during ultrasound)
  • problems with getting pregnant
  • prolonged PMS – symptoms include: bloating, mood changes, pelvic pain, backache

If you have any of these symptoms see a gynecologist, preferably one who is also an endocrinologist.

Can it be cured?

It is difficult to treat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Treatment is individual to each case and can be wide-ranging. A thorough breakdown of the patient’s history (pregnancies, regulation of menstrual cycles, hormonal contraception etc.) is the first step in finding the right medication and treatment.

Often when hormonal pills are prescribed, there is an increase in weight. To counteract this, a healthy lifestyle needs to be pursued, and in some cases, a reduced calorie diet and an increase in physical activity would be advised.

Can you live normally with PCOS?

How do I know that? Because I live with PCOS. In my case, the early symptoms were not recognized by my doctor. I suffered from very painful periods which literally put me in bed and made me faint. The strong painkillers didn’t help and I was 19 when I eventually went to a gynecologist. Unfortunately, it was a disaster. How can you tell a teenager that ‘it will all go away once you have had your first child’?

I learnt to live with the pain and never in my wildest dreams did I think it could be a symptom of a serious illness like PCOS.

A few years later, other symptoms appeared. In the past, I had always lost weight during sports camps. But after 2 weeks of intense volleyball training, I found that I had gained 3-4kg (no, it was not muscle mass). Within a few weeks, my menstrual period stopped.  It just disappeared for a good 4 months. I knew that I was not pregnant because no one gets pregnant from the air. In addition, my hair started to fall out and once I noticed the blemishes on my back, I knew something was seriously wrong with me.

After my previous experience, I was not keen to visit a specialist again. However, I decided to do some research and after another consultation, I was diagnosed as one of the 12% who suffer from PCOS.

The prognosis was not too good because the ratio of hormones was far from normal (LH: FSH 1: 1 is the norm, my results showed 4: 1). As you can see, it did not look very optimistic, but with the right doctor at my side, I was hopeful. Proper treatment helped me to overcome the pain, and the hair loss stopped. I dropped more than 10kg, and most importantly, my ability to have children now look very optimistic.

To all you young women out there, take care of yourself. Do periodic examinations, visit doctors and specialists in this field and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Our well-being and health are of vital importance to live a fulfilled life and sometimes we take it for granted, only realizing when it is too late. My advice is to be kind to yourself, take time out to enjoy yourself and most importantly, live a healthy lifestyle.

Starting today!

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