Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding Your PCOS Diagnosis: A Comprehensive Guide

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), including its causes, symptoms and which hormones are involved.

There are around 5 million women in the United States who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This is a hormonal condition that affects women and can cause a variety of symptoms. The good news is that science has come a long way, particularly in the field of hormone health and the connection to PCOS. Women with PCOS can often experience symptom relief with hormone optimization.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that affects the hormones.The condition impacts women during their reproductive years and results in the development of small cysts all over the ovaries. The exact cause of the disease is unknown. However, women who recognize the signs and symptoms–multiple missed periods or very heavy periods that last longer than a traditional cycle–can get treatment early and often overcome the long-term complications of the disease.

How Common is PCOS?

As mentioned before, around 5 million women in the United States alone suffer from this condition. While that only accounts for around 6 percent to 12 percent of the population, it is quite a common condition.

Symptoms

The symptoms associated with PCOS can be a mere nuisance, like excessive hair growth in unwanted places or life-altering, such as infertility, inability to lose weight and fatigue. Recognizing the symptoms is an important step to getting the right treatment.

Irregular Periods

Women with PCOS tend to have irregular periods. They may not have a period for several months at a time.

When they do have a period, it may be unusually heavy or unusually light. In some cases, a woman’s period may last an unusually long time, such as a week or longer.

Excess Hair (Hirsutism)

This symptom involves hair growth in areas that are not typical in women. For example, women with PCOS may grow hair on their necks, cheeks, chin, chest and other areas. This hair will also be thick and dark, much like the hair of a man.

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

In contrast to excess hair growth, some women with PCOS may also have hair loss on their heads. In particular, they may lose their hair as men do. This condition is known as alopecia (aka baldness). Baldness can occur in patches on the head or other parts of the body, including the armpits, eyebrows and eyelashes, and it involves losing hair around the front and sides of the forehead.

Skin Conditions

The most common PCOS skin condition is acne and oily skin.

Many women who have this condition have cystic, hormonal acne. This acne can destroy the skin with scars and can also damage a woman’s self-esteem.

PCOS can also lead to skin tags on the armpits or neck, as well as thick and dark skin patches found in the armpits, on the back of the neck and under the breasts.

Reduced Fertility

As mentioned before, women with PCOS tend to have irregular periods. Irregular periods coupled with cysts that often interfere with the function of the ovaries may cause many women with PCOS to experience infertility.

What Causes PCOS?

The exact cause of the condition is unknown, however it is hypothesized that certain genes may play a role making your risk higher if a woman in your family also suffers from the condition.

Lifestyle factors and conditions that contribute to increased inflammation and insulin resistance can also play a role in the development of PCOS.

PCOS Risk Factors

To start, consider the various PCOS risk factors.

Family History

If a woman has family members that have PCOS, she is more likely to have PCOS. Even having a mother or sister with type 2 diabetes increases the odds of developing PCOS.

For that reason, PCOS may have a genetic component.

Weight and Lifestyle

Some lifestyles may make it more likely for a person to develop PCOS.

For example, a woman who is overweight may be at a higher chance of being diagnosed with this condition.

Hormone Levels

Hormone levels play a significant role in PCOS. In many cases of PCOS, the ovaries produce high levels of androgens.

Androgens

Androgens are male hormones that occur both in men and women and play an essential role. However, women should maintain significantly lower levels of androgens. Women with PCOS may release higher levels of androgens interfering with ovulation and, therefore fertility, as well as increasing risk of cardiovascular disease.

Insulin Resistance

Some women with PCOS may have insulin resistance. If the body cannot efficiently process insulin, that leads to higher blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance can make it difficult to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. It can also increase the risk of inflammation and chronic disease, such as diabetes and
heart disease.

Complications of Long-Term PCOS

There are many complications concerning this condition.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a dangerous condition because it increases inflammation throughout the body and risk of disease. Many people with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, heart attack and more.

For example, it may lead to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, heart attack and more.

Infertility

This is often a frustrating and overwhelming side effect of PCOS. There are a number of reasons that PCOS may impact fertility, as previously mentioned. However, today many women who seek treatment and actively pursue therapy along with lifestyle changes to manage their PCOS may still conceive, but often with support from a fertility specialist.

Endometrial Cancer

If left untreated, women with PCOS will be at a higher risk of developing endometrial cancer.

This is because irregular periods prevent the uterus from regularly shedding its lining.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing while asleep.

This is more commonly a complication for those who are overweight, but there can often be a link between excess body weight and PCOS

Depression

The types of hormonal imbalances often associated with PCOS can increase the risk of depression.

Besides that, the symptoms of infertility, acne and hair loss or growth can also contribute to feelings of depression.

How is PCOS Diagnosed?

This condition can be diagnosed in a variety of ways.

Pelvic Exam

A pelvic exam involves a medical professional checking your external and internal genitalia.

The doctor can usually see if something is unusual right away. The procedure only takes a few minutes and results typically come back in a few days.

Transvaginal Ultrasound

This will allow the doctor to see the internal female structures such as the uterus and ovaries. An ultrasound can also visualize the cysts on the ovaries.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Nothing can cure PCOS. However, lifestyle changes can help.

Diet and Weight Management

Since women with PCOS are often overweight, weight management is very important. In fact, it has been estimated that as many as 80 percent of women with PCOS struggle to manage a healthy weight.

Losing excess fat and maintaining a healthy weight may even help reduce the severity of
certain PCOS symptoms.

Treatments for PCOS Diagnosis

There are several treatment options for PCOS.

Medications

Certain medications can help the symptoms of PCOS. For example, birth control pills can boost female hormones and make periods more regular.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be an effective treatment option for PCOS. Balancing low levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone, HRT can counteract the effects of high androgen levels.

Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormone therapy comes in many forms, including gels, creams, pills, patches, injections and pellets.

Pellet therapy is often the preferred method of hormone therapy, because of the convenience and effectiveness. There are no hassles with accurate dosing or remembering to take a pill or slather on a cream. Pellets provide steady controlled dosing over the entire treatment cycle–generally 3 to 6 months–
effectively mimicking the release patterns of natural hormones. For women with PCOS, this steady release ideally supports hormone optimization and avoids gaps in treatment.

Address the Symptoms of PCOS with Hormonal Balance

A PCOS diagnosis is life-changing. However, with the right support, women with PCOS can reduce symptoms and even overcome many of the complications of PCOS. Hormone optimization through hormone replacement therapy is often an effective treatment option.

EvexiPEL Certified providers are highly trained in hormone optimization and hormone therapy. To learn more about how to effectively address the symptoms of PCOS, find a highly-trained
EvexiPEL provider near you today.

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