Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
|January 5, 2012||Posted by Alaa Jasim under lifestyle, science|
On November 3, 2011, I was diagnosed with the condition polycystic ovarian syndrome. Since then it’s become a personal mission of mine to inform people about it by raising awareness of what it is, what signs there are that point towards it, and what’s involved in being tested for it. It is a condition, in my opinion, that women need to know if they have so that they can start dealing with it and treating it as soon as possible. It took me three years, two sets of doctors and a hospital visit to get a diagnosis, and I don’t want anyone else to be in that position.
What is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition found in around one in ten women and causes dysfunction of the ovaries. The ovaries develop a series of small cysts around the edges which, due to a hormonal imbalance, prevent the egg-containing follicle from developing. As a result, women with PCOS do not ovulate regularly if at all, leading to an irregular menstrual cycle and reduced fertility or even infertility. If left untreated, PCOS can lead to problems later on in life such as diabetes and insulin resistance, high cholesterol and heart problems.
Are there symptoms of PCOS or ways to spot it?
Features of PCOS include a number of cysts on the edges of the ovaries, failure to ovulate and a higher level of male hormones than usual. Only having two of those three features is enough to confirm a diagnosis. These features can lead to a series of symptoms. These include excessive body hair, irregular periods, problems getting pregnant, weight gain, acne and hair loss from the head.
Is there something that causes PCOS?
There isn’t a known cause for PCOS but it can be genetic; often women with PCOS find that it runs in the family.
What is the test for PCOS?
There is a series of tests that you would have to undergo. The first of these is a blood test (yes I know – needles) to look at your hormones and check that your thyroid functions aren’t the problem, as having an under-active thyroid can often lead to similar issues. You’ll be told if your hormones are out of balance, and if they are, you might be referred to the hospital for an ultrasound scan on your ovaries. It can take up to two weeks for the results to get back to your doctor. If you have a hormonal imbalance and a large number of cysts then show up on the ultrasound, it’s likely you’ll be provided with a diagnosis. However, more follow-up blood tests may be required at certain points during your menstrual cycle to make sure that you have this condition. Don’t be afraid to ask to be tested; that’s what I had to do in the end. You might feel like you’re making a fuss, but if it turns out you have PCOS it will have been worth it. If not, there’s no harm done really, is there?
If I’m diagnosed, what next?
Symptoms of PCOS can be treated. The first course of action would usually be anti-androgen contraceptive pills, commonly in the form of a combined pill called co-cyprindiol, or Dianette. This will help make your period regular and even-out your hormones. A change in lifestyle can also help alleviate the symptoms, perhaps with a change of diet, more exercise, and, essentially, weight loss. This is something that your doctor would talk you through. Women with PCOS usually respond well to fertility treatment. There are pills that increase ovulation and, in some cases, surgery might be an option.
Being diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome isn’t easy. The symptoms are annoying, and dealing with them can be as well. Often it can lead to lowered self esteem, but these are things that can be worked through. People don’t often realise how much help they’ve been to me, even though they haven’t actively tried. In spite of the negativity of being diagnosed, it’s something that you might need to know for the future; even if you don’t plan on having children, you might change your mind. It’s best, I find, to know sooner rather than later, and then you can work on turning that negative into a positive in your own way.
Thanks for reading; if you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.