PCOS 101

Let me start off by saying that you are not alone. As the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) affects an estimated 116 million women worldwide and affects women of all races and ethnic groups. PCOS is called a syndrome rather than a disease, as there is a wide range of ways that PCOS can present and a variety of factors that characterize it.

Women with PCOS wrestle with an array of possible symptoms including obesity, irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, depression, acne, and hair loss. Far reaching health implications such as increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes make these already stressful symptoms even more daunting.

Lifestyle change is key for women with PCOS whether they are overweight or not. We need to be thoughtful about the foods we use to fuel our bodies, the exercise we choose, the toxins we are exposed to and, just as importantly, the emotional and mental care we take with ourselves.

We know that PCOS is a syndrome affecting the endocrine system and results in a hormonal imbalance affecting all of your body’s glands. You may not know that hormones control more than your reproductive organs. They also control things like body temperature and insulin levels.

There are many theories about the cause of this particular hormonal disorder. It is possible that there is more than one cause; this would account for the wide range of symptoms that PCOS women exhibit. In the end, genetic and environmental factors, together with obesity, hormonal issues, and ovarian and hormonal dysfunctions are at the root of PCOS.

PCOS affects women in different ways, so not everyone will have all the related PCOS symptoms. Some may have only mild symptoms, while others may have a wider range of more severe symptoms. This is part of what makes PCOS so difficult to diagnose and manage, as no two individuals are the same.

Here is a list of symptoms that you could be experiencing if you have PCOS.

• Infertility • Irregular (oligomenorrhea) or absent periods (amenorrhea) • Excess hair growth on the face and/or body • Hair thinning or baldness • Acne • Obesity • Lipid abnormalities • Insulin resistance • Anxiety • Depression These various symptoms fall into three main categories, as evidenced by the Rotterdam consensus. For a woman to be diagnosed with PCOS, she must exhibit two of the three required criteria:

  1. Anovulation (Irregular or absent menstrual cycles)

  2. Hyperandrogenism (Raised androgen or a clinical sign of this, such as hirsutism or acne)

  3. Polycystic ovaries (Increased numbers of cysts/follicles on the ovaries)

Taking things a step further the Rotterdam phenotypes are also important as these new categories can further narrow down your PCOS phenotype, more on this later. Treatment is therefore aimed at managing individual symptoms. The good news is that many of the symptoms and the health risks can be managed successfully through a combination of good nutrition, exercise, stress management and adopting a generally healthy lifestyle. This will also help reduce your long term health risks.

For personalized advice to treat PCOS, contact the practice to book your appointment.

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