PCOS: The Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment Options
Let’s dive into Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and how it affects as many as five million women in just the United States! You’re not alone as you battle common symptoms such as weight gain, weight loss resistance, acne, missing or irregular periods, thinning hair, excess hair on the face and chest, and not to mention fertility issues.
As if we don’t have enough to deal with, untreated PCOS can bring long-term consequences, like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and possibly even strokes. PCOS has also been associated with increased risk of anxiety and depression.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is an imbalance of reproductive hormones from women and it can happen as soon as your first period (my little sister, the founder of S’moo began showing symptoms at just 14, as if being a teenager isn’t hard enough).
This hormonal imbalance is characterized by having too many androgens (male hormones) in the body. Male Hormones? I know it sounds weird but trust me both women and men produce them.
It’s only a problem when they become unbalanced which in turn can create problems in the ovaries, and affect your ovulation and menstrual cycles. For instance, with PCOS, the egg may not develop as it should or it may not be released during ovulation as it should be.
PCOS can cause missed or irregular menstrual periods. These Irregular periods and lack of ovulation, as we’ve mentioned before can lead to Infertility. Women often also develop cysts (small fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
Well, when my sister was younger, her symptoms (no menstrual cycle, extreme fatigue & excessive weight gain) lead her to the doctor. The doctor believed from her symptoms that she may have PCOS.
During that appointment, an ultrasound revealed her cysts and later, blood tests showed high levels of androgens which confirmed that she had PCOS.
She was prescribed birth control pills but our mom didn’t want her to take them so young, as it makes you unnaturally bleed and can have side effects. Women have had similar discovery experiences like this all over!
When you go to a doctor, you can be diagnosed with PCOS based on several criteria:
- Symptoms that indicate higher than normal androgen levels. What do increased Androgen Levels cause? Unwanted hair growth on the chin and/or chest; acne along the jawline, chest, and back; loss of hair on the head; weight loss resistance.
- Blood tests, including blood glucose, HbA1c, insulin, and circulating androgens
- Physical exam and pelvic exam to look for enlarged ovaries or other signs of increased androgens. Some doctors (like the one my little sister went to) may do an ultrasound of the ovaries, but PCOS cannot actually be definitively diagnosed by ultrasound, because even if they find cysts, it is normal for ovaries to have some ovarian follicles (cysts).
We have reviewed some of these already but to recap, these are the symptoms that if you’re experiencing you may want to see a doctor to confirm if you have PCOS:
- Missing or irregular periods (not ovulating regularly)
- Unwanted face and chest hair
- Loss of hair on the head
- Acne (specifically on the jawline, chest, and back)
- Carrying extra weight around the waistline
- Inability to lose weight
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Insulin resistance and dysregulated blood sugar (though not in every case. Most women with PCOS have dysregulated insulin, but not all)
Not overweight? Not all women with PCOS are overweight, and this misconception can delay diagnosis and proper treatment.
There are four types of PCOS:
- Insulin-resistant PCOS
- Inflammatory PCOS
- Hidden-cause PCOS
- and Pill-induced PCOS.
You won't always have all the symptoms. If you go to a doctor the “fix” is birth control, Anti-androgen medicines, and/or Metformin.
We of course here at S’moo believe in regulating your body naturally with the right vitamins and lifestyle. The easiest method is taking one scoop of S’moo a day in Smoothies combined with a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
Can I still get pregnant with PCOS?
We’ve talked about this subject before and if you didn’t catch that blog you can look at it here. The fast easy answer is YES! Having PCOS does not mean you can't get pregnant. PCOS is one of the most common, but treatable, causes of infertility in women.
Will PCOS go away once I experience Menopause?
This is a great question and you’d think the answer would be yes but of course, nothing is easy when it comes to our bodies. Since PCOS affects many systems in the body, many women will find their menstrual cycles becoming more regular as they get closer to menopause.
However, their PCOS hormonal imbalance does not change with age, so they may continue to have symptoms of PCOS.
Also, the risks of PCOS-related health problems, such as diabetes, stroke, and heart attack, increase with age. These risks may be higher in women with PCOS than those without. That is why it is so important to take charge of your lifestyle starting today to help reduce the risks in the future.
I hope this opened a few doors for you as you live your life with PCOS. Just remember you’re not alone. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions as many of us at S’moo are living with PCOS & always love to connect!
Want to learn more? Read our Top 10 Facts You Should Know About PCOS.