By: Venchi Balendez
When I was diagnosed that I have PCOS, I was so devastated, thinking that PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is similar to other reproductive cysts that require surgery.
I mastered my fears and instead did my research on what PCOS actually is, and here are a few things I found out:
What is PCOS?
PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is a common health problem due to an imbalance in a woman’s sex hormone. Women with PCOS have increased androgen production, a male sex hormone, which is normally found in women at lower levels. This imbalance creates problems in the ovaries, affecting its ability to develop eggs. It can cause missed or irregular menstruation, which can lead to infertility and the development of cysts in the ovaries. Due to this hormonal imbalance, recurrent miscarriages or elevated blood glucose level can occur that can lead to other health conditions.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but most experts say that genetics play a role. Around 5% to 10% of women with ages between 15 and 44 have PCOS and oftentimes get diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, when they see their doctors because they are having problems getting pregnant. If you are obese, or your mother, sister or aunt has PCOS, you are at a higher risk for PCOS compared to others who do not have PCOS in their bloodline.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Having one or more of these symptoms could mean that you have PCOS:
- Weight gain or obesity or difficulty losing weight
- Irregular periods
- Increased acne
- Growth of male pattern hair (under the nose, chin, around the nipples, etc.)
- Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp; male-pattern baldness
- Skin darkening, at the neck creases, groin, and underneath breasts
- Skin tags
How is PCOS treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for PCOS, but there are ways to manage its symptoms. Consult your doctor on the possible ways to manage PCOS according to the symptoms that you are experiencing. Also, there are things you can do at home to improve your PCOS symptoms, including:
Lose weight. You need to start eating healthy. Together with regular physical activity, these can help relieve PCOS symptoms. You only need to lose around 10% of your current body weight to see improvements, especially with your menstrual cycle and the ability to get pregnant.
Remove excess hair growth. There are hair removal creams, laser or electrolysis if you’re encountering excessive hair growth. Ensure that you choose safe and natural products and only go to an authorized practitioner for laser procedures.
Slow hair growth. A prescription skin treatment (eflornithine HCl cream) can help slow down the growth rate of new hair in unwanted places.
Can I still get pregnant if I have PCOS?
If you were diagnosed with PCOS, one of the problems you might encounter is difficulty in getting pregnant or even recurrent miscarriages. Having PCOS does not mean you cannot get pregnant. Though it is the most common cause of infertility in women, it is a treatable condition. If you wish to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about ways to help you increase your chances of getting pregnant.
What will happen if my PCOS is left untreated?
Studies show that when left untreated, PCOS can cause other health problems such as:
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
- Depression and anxiety
- Endometrial cancer
- Heart disease
How do you treat/manage PCOS?
Some of the possible medicines that your doctor will give you include one or more of the following to treat/manage PCOS and its symptoms:
Hormonal Birth Control. Aside from preventing pregnancy, hormonal birth control pills can regulate your menstrual cycle, lower your risk of endometrial cancer and help improve acne and extra hair growth.
Anti-androgen medicines. These block the effect of androgens in your body. It can reduce scalp hair loss, excessive hair growth, and acne. However, anti-androgen medicines can cause problems during pregnancy and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat PCOS symptoms.
Metformin. If you have Type-2 diabetes, Metformin is often prescribed to manage this. It can also help some women with PCOS symptoms. However, it is not approved by the FDA to treat PCOS symptoms.
The good thing I’ve learned after all this is that PCOS and its symptoms can be managed. The important thing is, you just have to be aware of it and have yourself checked if you think you have PCOS so that you don’t develop other health conditions.
Venchi Balendez is a registered nurse and mother of three, working as a part-time article writer.