PCOS can be a difficult condition to deal with, but understanding its symptoms will assist you in determining the best treatment option. Continue reading to learn how to spot its early warning signs.
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a common hormone disorder that can cause a variety of symptoms in girls and women of childbearing age. It’s one of the most common causes of infertility in women. PCOS can also cause other problems such as obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it is thought to be related to an imbalance of the hormones involved in ovulation. Ovulation refers to the release of a mature egg from an ovary for fertilisation by a male sperm. The egg is thrown out of the body if it isn’t fertilised during the menstrual cycle.
Lack of ovulation can lead to the development of small cysts on the ovaries, which prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs properly. These cysts produce androgens, which are male sex hormones that are found in modest amounts in most women. However, women with PCOS have excessive amounts of androgens, which disrupt their menstrual cycle and produce a variety of additional PCOS symptoms.
What are the early physical symptoms of PCOS?
Women can find out they have PCOS at various life stages. When women have trouble conceiving, they may learn they have PCOS. Female infertility is a telltale sign of PCOS because the pregnancy rate in women with PCOS is lower (but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, many women with PCOS absolutely go on to have children!).
Many women, however, get their PCOS diagnosis shortly after their first menstrual period. It can vary!
Here are some of the most common PCOS symptoms:
Due to irregular ovulation, women with PCOS may have infrequent or absent periods. Additionally, they may experience heavy bleeding or pain during their period.
Excess hair growth
Excess hair growth on the face, chest, back or thighs is common in women with PCOS due to an imbalance in androgen levels.
PCOS can cause acne due to increased sebum production by the sebaceous glands as a result of high levels of androgens. Because excess androgens stimulate the production of oil in the skin, someone with PCOS may likely develop acne on their face, back, neck and chest.
PCOS can lead to weight gain due to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that controls the body's blood sugar levels. When someone has insulin resistance, their body produces excess insulin in an attempt to control blood sugar levels, which can lead to weight gain.
According to a 2015 study on the treatment of infertility in women with PCOS, 70 to 80 percent of women with the condition struggle to conceive. This is because excessive androgen production interferes with egg growth and release from the ovaries. As mentioned earlier, there are many options to conceive and many women with PCOS go on to have babies.
How can you cope with the symptoms of PCOS?
There are several PCOS treatment options available to help regulate your hormone levels and improve your symptoms — so know there is help out there! Working with trusted health professionals who can help you make lifestyle changes can alleviate many of your symptoms.
Here are some tips to consider when changing your lifestyle to relieve your PCOS symptoms:
- Focus on a balanced diet. A healthy PCOS diet must be rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and natural sources of fibre.
- Engage in regular physical activity and exercise that you enjoy
- Learn to manage your stress (easier said than done though right?!). Engaging in relaxing activities, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or getting a massage, can help keep your stress levels low
- Limit or avoid alcohol consumption
- Seek the help of a qualified doctor and health practitioner, such as a dietician, nutritionist, naturopath, physiotherapist, counsellor etc.
PCOS can cause a wide range of challenging symptoms, but catching them early in life through accurate diagnosis and working with a team of trusted health professionals can allow you to take effective steps to live a normal, happy life!