Unlike many other syndromes, PCOS isn’t usually diagnosed with one quick trip to the doctor’s office.
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a genetic hormonal disorder affecting 1 in 10 women of childbearing age (15-44 years old). Unfortunately, information and studies existing around the condition are often misunderstood, making PCOS an under-diagnosed condition. PCOS greatly affects women’s health and leaves them to face a number of different challenges. Even though girls as young 11 years old have been found to have PCOS, usually women aren’t diagnosed until their 20s or 30s.
It’s never too early or too late to receive a diagnosis for PCOS. The key to getting proper treatment is being knowledgeable about the condition and advocating for your health. We are here to provide you with the education and support needed to do so.
Read on to learn more about PCOS, including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
What exactly is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is caused by an imbalance of hormones. There are three hormones that play a role in PCOS. Andogens are often called male hormones, but women have them too. Women with PCOS tend to have a higher level of andogens. Insulin manages blood sugar. Those with PCOS might not react to insulin the way it should. Women with PCOS may not have enough progesterione hormone, which causes missed periods. This imbalance of hormones creates a problem in the ovaries, causing them to develop many small follicles. With PCOS, the egg doesn’t mature or may not release during ovulation as it should. PCOS infertility is the most common, and most treatable, form of female infertility.
PCOS symptoms look different for everyone because PCOS affects every woman differently. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Missed or irregular periods
- Excess body hair
- Weight gain
- Pelvic pain
- Thinning hair on the scalp
- Skin tags
- Darkening of the skin (specifically along the neck crease, groin and beneath breasts)
Again, it’s important to remember that not everyone with PCOS experiences all of these symptoms. For example, not everyone who is affected by PCOS will struggle with their weight, but women with the condition are more likely to be overweight. Weight struggles are common with PCOS due to the high levels of insulin and androgens.
What causes PCOS?
While the exact cause of PCOS is not known, experts believe that there are several factors, including genetics, that play a role. Women who are obese and women with a mother, sister, or aunt with PCOS may be at a higher risk of having the condition.
As we have learned, PCOS is not easily diagnosed. Even with symptoms starting in early childbearing years, women often don’t learn of their condition until their 20s or 30s.
Currently, there is no single test that can definitively diagnose PCOS. During a possible diagnosis, doctors will look for two of three signs of androgen excess, irregular menstruation, and/or 12 or more follicles/cystic ovaries. Common tests to diagnose PCOS include physical exams, pelvic exams, pelvic ultrasounds and blood tests.
To spot follicles on the ovaries in an ultrasound, doctors look for what is often referred to as a “string of pearls.” A PCOS ovary looks like a chain of pearls, or a bunch of small, white balls (pictured above). At the Kaldas Center, we use ultrasound images to look at the ovaries, identify the “small string of pearls”, and provide women with a diagnosis and answers they deserve.
The Kaldas Way
Just like symptoms, solutions and PCOS treatment options differ from patient to patient.
Treatment can look like managing symptoms with lifestyle changes for one patient, or hormone therapy, like oral contraceptives, for another. Other types of treatment include insulin management with medications and surgery to restore healthy ovulation. One major factor in treatment depends on if the patient wants to conceive.
From education to diagnosis to treatment, we are here to help you advocate for your health and increase awareness of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Don’t Give Up
If you have any of the symptoms listed above but have struggled to find answers from doctors, don’t give up. Know that although PCOS is very difficult to diagnose, it’s important to stay motivated to educate yourself and others, and advocate for your health.
Our team is prepared to help you and provide you with the diagnosis, treatment, and support you need. Learn more about all of the options available to you. Call the Kaldas Center at 920-886-2299.