• What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder we treat at Peak Medical Clinic, and although many people have heard of it, many people don’t really know what it is or the common symptoms. PCOS is actually very common among women of reproductive age, and widely underdiagnosed in women seeking help. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs.
• What are some classic symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of PCOS often develop around the time of the first menstrual period during puberty. Sometimes PCOS develops later, for example, in response to substantial weight gain*. Often, the signs and symptoms of PCOS vary widely between patients and will often never be diagnosed. It is important to be aware of your body, your menstrual cycles, and your regularity regarding your cycles because knowing your body is so important in determining if you seek help in the first place! Here are some symptoms:
-Irregular periods. Infrequent, irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles are the most common sign of PCOS. For example, you might have fewer than nine periods per year, more than 35 days between periods or abnormally heavy periods.
-Polycystic ovaries. Your ovaries might be enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs. As a result, the ovaries might fail to function regularly.
-Acne that is severe, persisting even with treatment and normal diet, and notsuspected to be related to stress or other factors.
-Balding (male-pattern baldness) The physical signs such as balding, hirsutism (facial hair), and acne generally are correlated to the abnormally high levels of androgens which contributes to a hormonal imbalance.
*PCOS signs and symptoms are typically more severe if you’re obese.
• What causes PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS isn’t known and there is not just one. Factors that may play a role include:
-Excess insulin. Insulin is the hormone produced in the pancreas that allows cells to use sugar, your body’s primary energy supply. If your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, then your blood sugar levels can rise and your body might produce more insulin. Excess insulin can increase androgen production, causing difficulty with ovulation (a very common sign of PCOS)
-Low-grade inflammation. This term is used to describe white blood cells’ production of substances to fight infection. Research has shown that women with PCOS have a type of low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens, which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems.
-Heredity. Research suggests that certain genes might be linked to PCOS.
-Excess androgen. The ovaries produce abnormally high levels of androgen, resulting in hirsutism and acne.
• Why is it important to diagnose it, and what are the complications?
-Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
-Miscarriage or premature birth
-Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis — a severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
-Metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease
-Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes
-Abnormal uterine bleeding
-Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer)
• How to get help:
Early diagnosis and treatment, along with weight loss, may reduce the risk of long-term complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Recently, a woman by the name of Brandy shared her experience online about PCOS and touched many women. She told of how her doctors would tell her she just wasn’t trying hard enough to lose weight and dismissed her when she requested they run blood tests or suggest alternatives to the birth-control pills that gave her intense migraines. She continued to grow facial hair and lost much of her confidence due to her changing appearance that couldn’t be fixed no matter how well she ate or worked out.
She said, “I had no support or resources to learn how to manage my PCOS. It wasn’t until I was able to connect with other women who had it that I started to feel less isolated and learned how to advocate for myself”.
Seeing a provider who has experience evaluating, diagnosing, testing, and (most importantly) treating PCOS is crucial. Our providers value listening to each of their patients’ unique stories, history and symptoms to help and guide them on their journey to wellness.
Peak Medical Clinic’s providers are experts at treating hormonal imbalances, and want to make sure their patients are being cared for and treated in the best possible way. If you suspect PCOS could be your problem, or if you suspect any other hormonal issue, request an appointment with one of our amazing providers by following the link below. Thanks for reading and learning more about PCOS, we hope you enjoyed!
-Kenz RN, BSN