Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition that is affecting more and more women and girls – it affects 1 in 7 women worldwide making it one of the most common endocrine disorders to affect women of reproductive age.
This is one of the most common conditions that I see in our clinic, as women are usually frustrated by the lack of conventional treatment options available to them. Unfortunately, this condition is often incorrectly diagnosed and misunderstood in a lot of women. It is also being increasingly diagnosed in young girls – often unnecessarily.
It really seems that PCOS is becoming an epidemic, and information about this condition is greatly lacking! PCOS is a 20th century condition, along with the increase of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. And the reason they are all increasing together is because they are all being (mostly) caused by the same things. We’ll get into what that is later, but first we should cover what PCOS actually is.
The name poly-cystic ovarian syndrome implies that the main feature of the condition is the presence of small cysts on the ovaries, however with current diagnostic criteria this is actually not required for a diagnosed, and not all women with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries. This is just one of the possible symptoms that makes up this condition.
In this article I wrote for Western Sydney Mum’s Hub I discuss what PCOS actually is, as well as outline the symptoms of PCOS and debunk some myths. I also talk about the causes of PCOS, and my key natural treatments.
You can read the full article here, or scroll down for a preview.
Symptoms may include:
· Irregular or absent periods
· Insulin resistance (high insulin levels picked up in a blood test)
· High testosterone (androgen) levels in a blood test
· Hirsutism (Excess hair growth, usually in areas such as the lip, arms, lower back)
· Sugar cravings
· Blood sugar fluctuations (e.g. feeling irritable or dizzy if you skip a meal)
· Weight gain or difficulty losing weight, especially from around the middle
· Ovarian cysts (picked up by ultrasound)
· Thinning head hair
· Painful periods or pain on ovulation
· Fertility problems including difficulty conceiving and increased miscarriage rates
· Skin tags
· High cholesterol levels
The condition is diagnosed differently according to different criteria, however most commonly it is by the presence of 2 of the following 3 factors:
· Irregular or absent ovulation/periods
· High androgen levels (the male hormone) found in blood tests
· Symptoms of high androgen levels such as hirsutism and acne.
· Other conditions which cause these symptoms must be ruled out.
LET’S CLEAR UP SOME PCOS MYTHS
- Having cysts on the ovaries is not the main way of diagnosing PCOS. Not all women with PCOS have cysts, and as a stand-alone symptom having cysts on the ovaries isn’t enough to diagnose PCOS.
- It’s normal for cysts to grow on the ovaries – these are actually your ovarian follicles (or eggs) growing and releasing, however in PCOS these do not grow properly and this is what can result in the typical appearance of a PCOS ovary.
- PCOS doesn’t always affect your fertility negatively. This understanding is mostly based on people with severe cases of PCOS and so the understanding of to what degree it affects the fertility of those with milder forms of PCOS is lacking.
- You aren’t always stuck with PCOS for life. Many young girls who are diagnosed with PCOS can grow out of this condition by the 30s.
- The oral contraceptive pill is not the best way to treat PCOS. Yes it can bring on a regular, predictable bleed, but remember that this is not a true period, and the pill can make the condition worse after stopping.
- If you get period pain it is not due to PCOS – there is likely something else going on that is contributing to the period pain such as endometriosis or primary dysmenorrhea (the fancy term for period pain not attributed to an obvious cause). It is possible to have both endometriosis and PCOS.
- Thin women and girls can have PCOS too, and can still have insulin resistance.
To learn about the top causes of PCOS (including hormone imbalances, insulin resistance and a few other less well known causes) and my key natural treatments for PCOS, you can read the full article at it’s original location here.