Let’s talk about…
- What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS?
- What is the percentage of women impacted by it?
- Why do girls, women, and men want to learn about it?
- What are some of the symptoms, causes, and complications?
Let me start by defining the word syndrome. According to Merriam-Webster, syndrome a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition.
Another medical literature defines syndrome as a recognizable complex of symptoms and physical findings which indicate a specific condition for which a direct cause is not necessarily understood.
Does this definition put things in perspective or what? This sucks, doesn’t it? Compassion towards those with PCOS is a must.
I have worked with several women with PCOS and although there is no cure, I am here to tell you that implementing and sustaining a holistic lifestyle approach becomes vital to managing the condition, improve quality of life and confidence.
According to the Mayo Clinic, PCOS is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs. However, not everyone with PCOS has ovarian cysts. It has become clear that PCOS is a metabolic and endocrine disorder.
The global prevalence of PCOS is estimated to be between 6% and 26%–yes, it’s a pretty wide range. According to the CDC, PCOS affects 6-12% of US women of reproductive age. And as you will learn, the health problems are numerous and continue far beyond the child-bearing years.
What is even more shocking and sad to know relates to delayed diagnosis and lack of information. In an online survey of 1,385 PCOS patients in 32 countries…
- About 47% of the women visited three or more doctors before getting answers.
- A third of women said it took more than two years to get a proper diagnosis.
- About 16% of women were satisfied with the information provided by their doctors.
- Their most common concerns were difficulty losing weight (53.6%), irregular menstrual cycles (50.8%), and infertility (44.5%).
What’s going on here?
A common scenario amongst women with PCOS is…
As a teenage girl at puberty, she has irregular periods. She goes to the doctor and is prescribed birth control pills to regulate her cycle. Over the next few years, she experiences weight gain, excessive acne, sees hair where it’s unusual for women to grow. This young woman tries different diets, tries exercise, and even weight loss pills to help shed weight. Her self-esteem, confidence, and energy start to go downhill. She is very confused. What’s wrong with me? Everyone else does x, w, z and work for them.
She keeps trying different strategies to improve her health and be look like other women. Still, she does NOT give up. She is relentless. She goes to the doctor and is told to eat healthily and exercise. She is just not doing enough. In reality, she is doing lots but not getting results and still clueless.
Live goes one. She meets someone, gets married, and they want to start a family. She stops her birth control pills and…
NOTHING HAPPENED FOR MONTHS.
She cannot get pregnant. At that point, she and her partner start seeking answers. The question returns…what’s wrong with me? The stats provided on the online survey gives you a little glimpse of her exhausting experience.
Many of the women with PCOS I worked with shared this story I’ve just told you. Their symptoms include obesity, depression, anxiety, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, elevated lipid profile, excessive acne, and hair growth. They are seeking additional help because the treatment they are in isn’t effective.
Some women seek help because they want to have children in a few years and want to do what they can to get pregnant and/or have a healthy pregnancy, or healthy as a woman with PCOS can have. Some women seek help because they want to do what they can to prevent diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—diseases that are associated with
What are the causes of PCOS?
Unfortunately, medicine has not been able to figure this out yet. Factors known to play a role are:
- Excess insulin. Excess insulin might increase androgen production, causing difficulty for ovulation. Excess insulin may cause insulin resistance, weight and fat gain, fatigue, irritability, inflammation, and more.
- Excess androgen. The ovaries of women with PCOS tend to produce high levels of androgen, which includes testosterone. This often cause abnormal hair growth and acne.
- Research shows women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation that stimulates cysts in the ovaries to produce androgens, which can damage heart and blood vessel problems.
- Heredity is another possible cause. Research is linking certain genes to PCOS.
This last cause is one of the reasons I want men to listen carefully.
Research has shown that “brothers and fathers of women with PCOS also have elevated male hormone levels and face the same long-term health risks, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. The research points to the likelihood that the same gene defect is responsible for both the reproductive and the metabolic abnormalities.”
If you are lucky and who don’t have anyone in the family with PCOS, be grateful. Yet, it’s because you do have lovely women in your life, learn, understand, and support their journey to the best of your ability. Share this information with your buddies too.