Ladies, have you been experiencing irregular, painful periods? Do you see hair growth in many areas of your body? Are you having a difficult time losing weight? If your answer is yes to these questions, you may be dealing with PCOS.
PCOS may sound like a new condition, but it affects at least 10 percent of women. It is also one of the leading causes of female infertility. Learn more about it in this article.
What Is PCOS?
PCOS means polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal disorder in which women may have irregular periods. The condition produces high levels of androgen, the male hormone.
This results in acne and excess hair growth on your face and body called hirsutism. It also causes weight gain or obesity, difficulty losing weight, and ovarian cysts.
What Are the Causes of PCOS?
The cause of PCOS is unknown. However, it does have many risk factors and correlations.
For example, some studies suggest that women with PCOS are also more likely to have thyroid problems. The condition also increases the risk of other female reproductive issues, including uterine or endometrial cancer.
A possible explanation for these connections is hormones. PCOS is thought to be caused by an imbalance in a woman’s sex hormones, leading to problems with the way the ovaries work.
What Is the Role of Insulin Resistance in PCOS?
Most, however, believe that insulin resistance plays a significant role in the development of PCOS. Insulin resistance is a metabolic disorder wherein the body does not respond to insulin properly.
Insulin resistance is not diabetes, but it is a precursor of the chronic condition. It also affects up to 32 percent of the global population. It’s also associated with PCOS in at least 70 percent of women suffering from this condition.
In a healthy individual, insulin enters cells and stimulates them to take glucose out of the blood. The cells then use it to produce energy.
If you are insulin resistant, the body does not respond to insulin properly. This leads to a high level of glucose in your bloodstream, setting off a chain reaction for other health complications as well.
What Are the Symptoms of PCOS?
The symptoms of PCOS vary depending on each woman’s condition and hormonal balance. Often, they exhibit the following:
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Heavy periods
- Excess hair growth on the face and body (hirsutism)
- Thinning hair or male-pattern baldness
• Darkening of the skin in spots such as neck creases, groin, under breasts, and other areas called acanthosis nigricans
How Do You Diagnose PCOS?
Diagnosing PCOS is challenging because the symptoms can be vague or mimic those of other conditions. The best way to determine if you have the condition is to visit a doctor in urgent care and undergo the following:
- Blood Tests: A doctor will likely order blood tests to measure hormone levels and glucose tolerance.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound of the ovaries can help detect the presence of cysts.
- Medical History: The doctor will ask you about your medical history since the condition and diabetes can run in families.
- Physical Exam: The doctor will also perform a physical exam to look for signs of excess hair growth and acne.
What Are the Best Treatments for PCOS?
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for PCOS. The best way to manage this condition is through a combination of diet, exercise, and medications that target your specific needs.
The first step in treating PCOS is to lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Losing just 5 to 7 percent of your current body weight can improve insulin resistance, normalize hormone levels, and help you ovulate.
For weight loss, your doctor or dietitian may suggest cutting back on sugar and carbs to manage insulin resistance. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet with lots of fiber can also help control inflammation that may be associated with PCOS.
You will also need to exercise regularly for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. This will help you lose weight, lower insulin resistance, and improve your hormone levels.
If you are trying to become pregnant, medications such as Clomid may be prescribed to help stimulate ovulation. In some cases, the doctor may perform surgery to remove the cysts.
PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects millions of women. It can cause irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne, and weight gain. The condition is also associated with an increased risk of developing type II diabetes.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for PCOS, losing weight if you are overweight or obese can improve your hormone levels and help you ovulate.