I’ve done a fair few posts about mental health, but this time I thought I’d talk about another condition I have and it’s definitely not talked about enough despite it being so common.
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and is one of one of the most common hormone disorders, with every 1 in 5 women being impacted by it, which makes it so shocking that there’s not many people aware of it and there’s just not enough information about it which we really need.
So what is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome? PCOS is a common condition which affects how our ovaries work. The three main elements of PCOS are irregular periods (which means that you don’t regularly ovulate), excess androgen ( high levels of “male hormones” in your body which may cause things like excess facial or body hair) and polycystic ovaries (this is where your ovaries become enlarged and contain lot of fluid-filled sac (follicles) which surround the eggs.)
The thing about PCOS is that doctors don’t know who will get it and who won’t. So much is uncertain around PCOS and it’s impossible to predict who will develop it. It can often run in families and is related to hormone levels, including insulin production, but any woman can be affected by the condition and having it doesn’t mean you’re at any kind of fault.
Getting a diagnosis is pretty difficult, but it’s definitely worth fighting for. There’s no single test which can diagnose PCOS and this is a good reason as to why so many women are suffering without realising it. However, under the NHS guidelines, your doctor should confirm PCOS if you present two or more of the following: ovarian cysts, disrupted ovulation and/or high androgen levels. The main way to test for this is via an ultrasound can and a blood test. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, you should be pushing for further investigations.
What are the symptoms? Well, the symptoms vary dramatically from person to person, but some of the most common signs and symptoms include:
- Oily skin and recurring acne
- Irregular, infrequent or absent periods
- Excess facial and body hair growth
- Head hair loss or thinning
- Weight gain
There’s also difficulties for those looking to fall pregnant due to irregular ovulation and increased risk of miscarriage that the condition causes. Other symptoms are actually quite surprising, such as high levels of depression which for some is caused by the hormonal imbalances and others by the resulting difficulties it presents. It’s important to remember you can get help for both your PCOS and depression. There are other symptoms, too, such as higher instance for skintags (particularly around the neck and armpits), get dandruff more frequently, develop high blood pressure and even have a deeper voice as a result of the PCOS.
What I’ve learnt is that diet can definitely have quite the impact on PCOS. Being overweight or obese increases the amount of insulin your body makes, which is why weight can have a direct impact on your symptoms. Unfortunately, PCOS also gives you cravings for fatty, carby foods. Nightmare! A well-balanced and low GI (glycaemic index) diet is really helpful, with a rainbow of veggies, good quality proteins and healthy fats coming into play. Other helpful tips are to drink filtered water and to go organic where possible to avoid consuming additional hormones and disruptive chemical. You should also avoid or majorly reduce all processed foods, caffeine and alcohol.
Medication can also be a big help, with various that may be prescribed in order to help manage your symptoms such as Metformin if you’re battling insulin resistance, Clomid for inducing ovulation or Aldactone for hormonal skin imbalance. Unfortunately, there is no single medication which can address the underlying causes.
For me, pain plays a massive part in symptoms. Imagine the worst period pain possible, where it’s like someone is slicing your lower abdomen into tiny pieces and you cannot sleep, lie down, sit down or find any form of comfort. The pain also tends to travel down my thighs – sometimes down to my knees, up my back and up to just under my chest. For any cis males reading this, count yourselves lucky to not have to feel this pain. A lot of people I’ve spoken to experience this pain and there isn’t really a cure. All I can recommend is strong painkillers, ibuprofen helps a lot, along with heat (hot water bottles, wheat bags) applied to the are which causes pain. It’s actually such an intense agony that many times I’ve had to miss school in the past as well as work. Though I suffer with various symptoms of PCOS, this is without a doubt the one I want to tackle first and foremost because nobody should have to have a desire to want to cut of their lower half or go to any extreme to rid the pain.
Something else that should be mentioned is that it can also impact your health in other ways.If you do not properly manage your PCOS, it can lead to health problems later on in life such as heart disease to type 2 diabetes and even endometrial cancer. Don’t worry if you have been diagnosed, but it’s important to try and get all of the support you need as early as possible to prevent further suffering.
I wanted to make this an informative post to share with my readers because there are so little people aware of it and if this can help at least one person, then I’ve done my job. I’m no scientist, doctor or health professional, but I’ve shared all the information I have and I think it’s important that we talk about it and let others become aware of this being a thing. So many people are undiagnosed and living with unexplained symptoms, so it’s important to get diagnosed, get any help possible and hopefully encourage more to be done for the condition, because the little known information and help out there is shocking.
Have you been diagnosed with PCOS? How aware are you of the condition?