Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that afflicts many women (about 10%!), yet many do not understand what it is. While the causes are not clear to researchers, environment, weight, genetics, hormones and metabolic dysfunctions play a role.
It can be difficult to get an accurate diagnosis of PCOS because of its wide range of symptoms. PCOS is complex, and thus diagnosing it and treating it can be complex. I want to help you understand more about it so that you can become the master of your PCOS.
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
If you do have PCOS, it can feel like you are constantly fighting with your body. As the name suggests, one of the symptoms of PCOS can be cysts (or tiny, fluid-filled sacs) on your ovaries. However, not all women with PCOS have cysts – you can still be diagnosed with PCOS and not have any cysts on your ovaries. It is important to understand that every woman with PCOS presents differently and because of this, some doctors may still rely on the presence of cysts to diagnose you with PCOS.
According to what is known as the Rotterdam criteria, a woman can meet the clinical diagnosis for PCOS if she has two of the three criteria:
- Lack of ovulation or less frequent ovulation
- High androgen hormone levels
- Polycystic ovaries as detected on an ultrasound
Hormonal imbalance is an issue for those with PCOS and we tend to have higher levels of androgens (often referred to as male hormones, which can lead to acne, irregular hair growth, dark patches of skin, irregular periods, and/or weight gain) and/or higher levels of insulin (especially in those who are overweight). We may suffer from painful, irregular or downright missing periods. We may get headaches, struggle with infertility and even experience more anxiety and depression.
Do You Have To Get Diagnosed?
If you suspect you have PCOS, I recommend seeing a physician who is well-versed in endocrine disorders and/or PCOS. I advise seeing a naturopathic physician or a physician that uses a holistic approach. The reason for this is because it is very common for women with PCOS to be prescribed hormonal birth control, which is not an effective solution long-term and will likely cause many additional side effects.
Untreated PCOS has been linked to type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, infertility, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and/or endometrial cancer. Getting a diagnosis early on can help prevent the onset of these conditions and can also improve your quality of life. Getting into a routine of eating nutritious foods, managing stress, sleeping well, and moving your body can do wonders. If you need some support with this, I’d love to help.
Your life is not over if you are diagnosed with PCOS. Because of my PCOS, I have daily motivation to eat nutritious foods, move my body, and engage in extreme self-care. Now that I have regained control of my symptoms, I consider PCOS to be a blessing in disguise.
Have you recently been diagnosed with PCOS? If so, I’d love to know what questions you still have! Let me know in the comments below!
- Boyle J. Polycystic ovary syndrome: An update. Reproductive Health. 2012, Volume 41(10):852-756.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome. Womenshealth.gov. https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html. Updated June 8, 2016. Accessed November 18, 2016.
- Sirmans SM, Pate KA. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Clinical Epidemiology. 2014;6:1-13. doi:10.2147/CLEP.S37559.