According to the Centers for Disease Control, polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS affects nearly 10% of women in the United States. PCOS is a common hormonal imbalance in which a woman has high levels of androgens, the male hormone, and low levels of estrogen, the female hormone.
Additionally, high levels of insulin lead to a resistance that plays a role in PCOS. The imbalance of these hormones interferes with ovulation leading to difficulty in getting pregnant; PCOS is a leading cause for infertility in women.
Women with PCOS face a number of challenges before and after receiving a diagnosis. The information and studies existing around the condition is complex and often misunderstood. Here are four things women with PCOS want you to know about living with the condition.
PCOS is difficult to diagnose and treatment varies.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is not easily diagnosed. In fact, women often learn of their condition in their 20s and 30s or when they are trying to become pregnant. There is no single test to definitively diagnose PCOS, which can be extremely frustrating. To make it harder, PCOS does not look the same for every woman.
Polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms
Women with PCOS may experience any combination of the following:
A doctor may diagnose PCOS using an ultrasound, blood tests and symptoms. To be diagnosed, a doctor will look for two of three signs including:
- Androgen excess (signs include hirsutism, acne, hair loss)
- Irregular menstruation
- 12 or more follicles/cystic ovaries
Treatment for women with PCOS includes focusing on lifestyle improvements. Doctors and patients often manage the condition by directly addressing symptom concerns. While researchers have been unable to agree on the causes of PCOS, it is most commonly believed to be a mix of genetics and environment. But, now new research suggests it may be due to a hormonal imbalance even before birth.
Getting pregnant with PCOS is challenging.
Because hormonal imbalances affect a woman’s ability to ovulate and release an egg for fertilizing, women with PCOS can experience infertility.
Although getting pregnant can be challenging for a woman with PCOS, it is not impossible. In fact, it is one of the most treatable forms of infertility. If you have PCOS and are struggling to become pregnant, it is recommended you see a fertility specialist, like one of our doctors at the Kaldas Center.
A specialist will discuss your symptoms and treatment options with you to increase your chances of pregnancy. Typically, a first step is to modify your lifestyle through nutrition and exercise. Simply incorporating 30 minutes of exercise a day and eating a healthy diet to lose 5-10% of your weight can get your menstrual cycles back on a regular schedule. When lifestyle changes alone are not enough to jumpstart fertility, your doctor will work with you to determine the next steps.
PCOS affects people’s weight differently.
A common misconception about women with PCOS is that they are overweight or obese. However, that is not the case. 20% of women with PCOS are in normal weight ranges. This misconception can lead to difficulty diagnosing lean women who may be experiencing other symptoms of PCOS.
While a woman with PCOS is more likely to be overweight, PCOS affects every woman differently because it is a syndrome. Weight struggles are common with PCOS due to the high levels of insulin and androgens. If you are a woman with PCOS and are struggling with your weight, take a step in the right direction by consulting your doctor.
At the Kaldas Center, we have partnered with nutritionist and owner of Nutritional Healing, LLC, Kim Stoeger, to help patients with PCOS develop an exercise and dietary plan that can make an impact on not only insulin levels, but overall health.
PCOS puts women at higher risks of other diseases.
Studies have shown that there is a correlation between PCOS and other major health problems. Unfortunately, it is not known if PCOS causes other health issues, or if the other health issues cause PCOS. However, women with PCOS should be aware of their increased risks for other diseases and conditions such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Endometrial cancer
- Metabolic syndrome
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Depression and anxiety
If you have PCOS and are experiencing symptoms of any of the above conditions, be sure to consult your doctor.
You’re not alone.
When it comes to PCOS, remember you are not alone. The struggles of this complex condition are very real, and the Kaldas Center is here to support you along your treatment journey.
If you’d like more information about managing PCOS, call us at (920) 886-2299 or visit our website.