Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can cause enlarged ovaries that form cysts on the outer edges.
For some women, PCOS is caused by genetics and, for others, environmental factors; and while we can’t cure PCOS, treatment can help manage symptoms.
It’s estimated that between 5% and 10% (around 5 million) of American women in their childbearing years are affected by polycystic ovary syndrome, making it common.
Whether you’re living with PCOS or have a loved one with the condition, understanding the symptoms and treatment that can help is essential.
Please keep reading to learn more about PCOS and how to manage it.
For many women with PCOS, their menstrual periods are irregular, and it’s one of the first signs of the condition. Periods that last for many days longer than they typically did or periods that occur more than 35 days apart are a sign of PCOS and can affect your ability to get pregnant.
While birth control can help regulate periods, many women with PCOS struggle with fertility issues, so taking birth control is not an option.
Healthy habits like losing weight, getting enough sleep, and even using supplements like apple cider vinegar have all been shown to help regulate women’s menstrual cycle with PCOS.
PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women, but there are ways to treat this. The hormonal imbalance interferes with the ability to ovulate and the ovary to release an egg, and if you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant.
While plenty of women with PCOS get pregnant through weight loss or more serious methods like IVF (in vitro fertilization), supplements may help boost their fertility.
An inositol supplement can support ovarian and egg health while simultaneously supporting hormone levels. Before taking more invasive medical steps, many women opt for more natural methods like inositol.
High levels of the hormone androgen often result in excessive facial and body hair for women with PCOS; this condition is called hirsutism. Sometimes, excess Androgen can also cause severe acne and even male pattern baldness.
Birth control pills are considered the first line of defense against hirsutism, and two-thirds of women see dramatic improvement when starting birth control pills.
Over 80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese, and three-quarters have a condition called insulin resistance, which makes them more prone to develop type 2 diabetes.
Researchers don’t know if PCOS causes weight gain or weight gain causes PCOS; however, there is an association between the two conditions, and when you’re overweight or obese, your risk of several other health issues rises substantially.
Though it’s more difficult for women with PCOS to manage their weight, losing just 5 to 10% of their body fat can dramatically improve their PCOS symptoms.
Acanthosis Nigricans result from the hormone imbalances caused by PCOS and show up with darkened skin in the creases and folds of a woman with PCOS.
You may notice darkened areas on the back of your neck or along your groin, but don’t let it alarm you, as it is a common symptom of PCOS. Treatment for this darkened skin typically consists of self-care to treat hyperpigmentation and potential pain and odour.
In addition to skin creams, some women find relief through special soaps for the condition, medications, and even laser therapy.
As with most symptoms of PCOS, treating the underlying issue might help, like losing weight through the help of a nutritional counsellor.
Women with PCOS are at increased risk of developing other issues later in life. Type 2 diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and cholesterol can lead to heart disease, stroke, and sleep apnea.
Making healthy choices isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but they can go a long way in preventing these future risks for women with PCOS.
If you’re struggling to lose weight, you should always reach out to your GP and work with a nutritionist who can help you achieve your goals.
Women with PCOS should address mental health issues immediately with a licensed provider.
Though an initial diagnosis of PCOS can feel overwhelming, millions of women live with the condition daily and thrive because of the healthy habits they adopt.
You may feel better through supplements, exercise, regular sleep, and other lifestyle changes than you did before PCOS.
Here’s to your health!
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