Women can be battling PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome), without even knowing it! This syndrome has recently gathered recognition and I, like many other women, are finally coming to understand the differences we have in our bodies.
I had gone through my teens and twenties thinking something was wrong with me for never being able to lose weight successfully, always having facial and body hair that embarrassed me, and never having regulated menstrual cycles. Many of my doctors would just give me the party line “Lose weight.” Easier said than done.
Some common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Rapid weight gain without the ability to control it
- Excess Facial and Body Hair
- Male Pattern Baldness
- Irregular Menstrual cycles
- Random Ovarian pain
- Adult Acne
PCOS is derived from being Insulin Resistant (not diabetic). Insulin Resistant means that the cells in your body that need to process Insulin stop ‘hearing’ it. This is key in the weight gain/inability to lose weight pattern that is an inherent symptom of PCOS. If the cells that need Insulin aren’t responding to Insulin, sugars aren’t processed properly in the body, and this ultimately results in weight gain and the inability to lose weight.
Newer treatments are now being used to treat the Insulin Resistance in order to get to the heart of PCOS. One of the newer treatments being used are oral diabetic medications to stimulate the cells that don’t ‘hear’ the insulin in your body. Also, by taking diabetic medication (such as Metformin), you can hope to avoid becoming diabetic later in life, and it can aid in weight-loss.
While the name PCOS suggests a gynecological illness, the ovary syndrome is an endocrinological problem, in that, the misuse of insulin in the body affects the production of male hormones, producing the masculine characteristics such as facial hair and male pattern baldness.
I never knew that there was a legitimate reason for being overweight, having excess body hair and suffering with irregular menstrual cycles, and again, these are just a few of the symptoms that women with PCOS endure!
I must also note that not all affected women have polycystic ovaries (when the ovaries are enlarged and contain many sacs or cysts), although that is how PCOS got its name in the 1930s. Women with PCOS can have many of the symptoms mentioned above, to varying degrees. As a result, doctors and women looked at the symptoms individually rather than as a whole. Women were treated for infertility, acne, or irregular menstrual cycles, instead of looking at the combination of all these symptoms and how they were affecting their bodies.
Inasmuch as 5 years ago, PCOS had been completely misdiagnosed, and you would have gotten no response from your doctor. The doctor would have most likely put on your birth control pills to regulate your menstrual cycle and sent you on your way. Now, these same doctors are saying it’s more than menstrual irregularities, it is a condition that affects your entire life, and can take years away from that life if it goes untreated.
If you are reading this article and some of the symptoms I mentioned are similar to what you experience, I urge you to find an OB/GYN and an Endocrinologist to run tests so you can get yourself an answer! Having an Endocrinologist examine you and take bloodwork is key to diagnosing PCOS, as it is important to get the Insulin Resistance treated promptly. The OB/GYN can administer an Ultrasound to check your ovaries for cysts.
It is my hope that further education on PCOS is forthcoming in the future, as statistics are showing that more and more women are unknowingly affected by this syndrome.