You've heard of yeast infections, STIs and ovarian cancer, but have you heard of PCOS? Perhaps not. Unlike many high-visibility women's health issues, PCOS never seems to receive the attention it merits. PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormonal disorder which affects thousands of women each year. If you've never heard of it, read on. Here's what every woman needs to know.
A genetically-determined hormone imbalance, PCOS causes women's bodies to create an excess of male androgen hormones. These extra male hormones create a series of chemical chain-reactions within a woman's body that disrupt several hormonally-controlled processes such as weight control and menstruation. The known symptoms of PCOS include acne, irregular periods, facial hair, weight gain, thinning head hair, an increase in blood sugar levels, infertility and depression. This list of symptoms is daunting to say the least, if only because most women do experience some of these indicators--especially during their period. Unfortunately, women who are dealing with PCOS experience nearly all of these symptoms at once. Therefore, a little acne or weight gain usually doesn't mean that you have a dangerous hormone imbalance.
If you've noticed that something's "off" with your body, the important signs to look for are rapid weight gain, missed periods and facial hair. If you think that you might be experiencing symptoms related to PCOS, see your doctor immediately. By checking a few key factors such as your menstruation cycle and body mass index, your doctor can determine whether or not you're dealing with PCOS or another hormonal imbalance. One sure-fire way for your doctor to confirm a case of PCOS is to perform a pelvic ultrasound. This examination will allow them to determine whether or not you have developed multiple cysts on your ovaries (as seen in the photograph above).
While there is no known cure for PCOS, there are several effective treatments. These include regular exercise, clean eating and weight loss. Some forms of the birth control pill are often prescribed to women with PCOS to mediate their menstrual symptoms and regulate their periods. Women who are diagnosed with PCOS should not smoke, as smoking can increase your body's production of androgens. It's important to catch PCOS in its early stages before the symptoms develop into more complicated health issues such as type 2 diabetes or endometrial cancer. Additionally, women suffering from PCOS should seek out counselling or a group of women also coping with the disease. The symptoms of PCOS can be debilitating to a woman's self esteem, so finding your support group is key.
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