by Sana Khan
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common endocrine condition that affects one in every ten women. It manifests differently in each individual and can have a profound impact on an individual’s self-esteem and quality of life. Unfortunately there is no guide book when dealing with PCOS from hormonal changes, fatigue, cystic acne, excessive hair growth or hair loss and more. It is a hormonal condition that women can get during their childbearing years. It can affect your ability to have a child (your doctor will call it your fertility). It can also stop your periods or make them hard to predict, cause acne and unwanted body and facial hair, raise your risk of other health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure. Some women with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries. That’s why it’s called “polycystic.” But the name is misleading because many women with PCOS don’t have cysts.
Doctors can’t say for sure what causes it, but PCOS seems to be related to an imbalance in a girl’s hormones . Both girls and guys produce sex hormones, but in different amounts. In girls, the ovaries make the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and also androgens, such as testosterone. The adrenal glands also make androgens. These small glands sit on top of each kidney. These hormones regulate a girl’s menstrual cycle and ovulation (when the egg is released).
Androgens are sometimes called “male hormones,” but the female body also makes them. In girls with PCOS, the body makes a higher than normal amount of androgens. Research also suggests that the body might make too much insulin , signaling the ovaries to release extra male hormones. PCOS seems to run in families too, so if someone in your family has it, you might be more likely to develop it.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF PCOS
A key sign of PCOS is irregular periods or missed periods. This is the major one. The effects of PCOS on the ovaries can make a girl stop ovulating. But the thing is, PCOS cannot be diagnosed until 2–3 years after a girl’s first menstrual cycle because it can take up to 2 years after a first period for any girl’s cycle to become regular. Still, many girls with PCOS can get pregnant. Imbalanced hormone levels can cause changes in a girl’s entire body, not just her ovaries. Some of the major signs with which doctors identify as someone suffering from PCOS includes:
Weight gain, obesity, or difficulty maintaining a normal weight, especially when the extra weight is concentrated around the waist
Acondition called hirsutism, where a girl grows extra hair on her face, chest, abdomen, or back (a little of this is normal for most girls, though)
Thinning hair on the head (alopecia)
Acne and clogged pores
Darkened, thickened skin around the neck, armpits, or breasts which is a sign of insulin resistance
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar levels)
Girls who show signs of puberty early — such as developing underarm or pubic hair before age 8 — may be at greater risk for PCOS later on
IS THERE A TREATMENT?
While many people with PCOS have successfully lost weight and reversed their symptoms, weight loss doesn’t work for everyone. Having a balanced diet full of nutritious foods can help manage PCOS symptoms. However, keep in mind that no single diet will suit everyone. It’s also worth noting that people with PCOS tend to be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, zinc, and iron, so consult your doctor or a dietitian or nutritionist before making any major dietary changes.
Also your sleep patterns matter here. The reasons for not getting enough sleep can vary and may include hormone changes, sleep environment, diet, stress levels or mood. Many women with PCOS struggle with fatigue even after what feels like a good night’s sleep and waking up exhausted. Getting into a routine will help our sleeping patterns and get a good night’s sleep. Try to avoid all screens at least half an hour before going to bed. Use this time to create a calming bedtime routine which might involve reading, lighting a candle, listening to some relaxing music or even just lying in bed quietly reflecting on your day. That will allow you to have a stable and effective sleeping routine that works and will provide you with plenty of benefits in the long run.
And when managing PCOS, self-care and self-reflection is important. During the down days of PCOS it’s important to look after your emotional wellbeing and make sure you have a good support network around you—remember it is not selfish to look after yourself. When you are dealing with chronic pain due to PCOS it can be difficult to be positive but building a good support network could be the first step in your journey. Listen to your favourite songs, take your needed vitamins, do things that make you happy and try to be around in nature. The options in self care are endless, and it all depends on your personal preferences and what you feel needs to be focused on most—your physical or emotional self, or both. Remember to be kind to yourself. It’s not about overcoming PCOS, it is about managing PCOS.