Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition that occurs in one of every 10 women and involves an imbalance of female hormones. It's often diagnosed in women who are in their 20s or 30s, although it can affect girls as young as 11.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition is named for the numerous small cysts located along the outer edge of each ovary. Medical News Today adds that along with polycystic ovaries, women who have PCOS may experience irregular or no menstrual periods, irregular ovulation and high levels of androgens — or male hormones — in the body.
Many women with PCOS, therefore, have difficulty getting pregnant, and that’s how they find out they have it. Others, because of the elevated androgens, may have excess facial and body hair, experience male-pattern baldness or get bad acne. Because we are talking about hormonal imbalances, many — though not all — women with PCOS carry extra weight that they find significantly difficult to lose.
It’s important to recognize the symptoms of PCOS because the earlier you get diagnosed, the better your odds are of not developing complications associated with it.
Medical News Today points out that “some women do not have all the symptoms, and each one can range from mild to severe.” All the more reason to stay on top of gynecological appointments and to be aware of your body and any changes it experiences.
An early diagnosis can help many women assuage the effects of the signs and symptoms of PCOS, not to mention the complications that may result from leaving the condition untreated. Women who are carrying excess weight because of PCOS, for example, are prone to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Treatment for PCOS can include anything from hormones to reducing elevated testosterone levels, to creams to slow the growth of unwanted hair to surgery. Write down your questions and concerns, and have them ready when you visit your OB-GYN. Doing so will help ensure that your doctor determines an effective treatment for you.
Women with PCOS are encouraged to exercise at least 20 minutes per day. Doing so will help them manage their weight, even if they can’t lose weight as quickly or easily as someone those who don't have PCOS. It’s also advised that women with PCOS avoid soy and stimulants. As far as the latter goes, yes, we're afraid that means coffee. If cutting out coffee entirely is impossible, speak with your doctor and see if you can at least cut it to 1 or 2 cups a day.
Some of the symptoms can cause much psychological distress — infertility, hair loss or unwanted hair can all lead to stress and wreak havoc on your emotions. Therefore, it's also advisable that women seek out support groups where they can meet others who are dealing with similar situations.