What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is a condition that affects hormones within a woman’s body. There are three main symptoms of the condition and it’s usually diagnosed if you have two of the symptoms. These are:
- Irregular periods
- Higher levels of “male hormones” which can cause facial or body hair.
- Polycystic Ovaries – this is when your ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid filled sacs known as follicles.
Despite the name of the condition, you do not have cysts on your ovaries.
What causes PCOS?
The official cause is unknown but it does run in families. It is related to abnormal levels of hormones in your body and can include high levels of insulin which is why some women are treated with diabetes drugs for their symptoms.
Can it be cured?
No. It can’t be cured outright, but the symptoms can be managed.
The worst thing to be told is “losing weight can make symptoms more manageable.”
What they don’t tell you is the reason you’re putting on weight is because your hormones are out of balance. The way your body breaks down food depends on your hormone levels. Many women produce excess insulin because their body is resistant to it and so the body produces more of it affecting how sugar is broken down in the body. It’s a vicious cycle.
There are drugs you can take for the different symptoms but they can affect your body in different ways too.
If you have PCOS or think you might have, you will need to speak to your doctor and come up with a plan for how you want to treat it.
Can I take medication for it?
There are a number of different medications that treat different things for PCOS but there isn’t anything that treats all of the symptoms.
For irregular or absent periods your doctor may recommend a contraceptive pill. This doesn’t mean you have to have sex. I’ve been taking the pill since I was fourteen and I definitely wasn’t having sex then. It’s a bonus when you decide you’re ready because you’re already protected against unwanted pregnancy.
If you decide you do want to have children, your doctor can prescribe a short course of tablets to be taken at the start of your cycle. If this is unsuccessful, modern medicine has made it possible that IVF treatment is a possibility. There is more of chance of multiple pregnancy but twins is usually the norm.
Some women are treated with diabetes drugs to lower the symptoms of PCOS and this can increase fertility.
There are some medications that can help with unwanted hair growth and hair loss. These work by blocking the male hormones. There is also a cream that can be prescribed which can slow down the hair growth but does not remove it completely so you will have to use it along with other hair removal products.