Polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly called PCOS, is a health condition affecting one in ten women of reproductive age. Yet, despite its prevalence, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding it.
September is recognized as PCOS Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness about the condition and improve the lives of those affected by it. The campaign is focused on helping individuals with PCOS manage their symptoms effectively and reduce their risk for related life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cancer.
This blog will shed light on the symptoms, causes, and effective management strategies for PCOS.
PCOS presents a variety of symptoms, and not every woman will experience them all. Some of the most common include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles or absence of periods
- Excess androgen, which can lead to physical signs such as facial and body hair, severe acne, or male-pattern baldness
- Polycystic ovaries, where the ovaries might be enlarged and contain numerous small fluid-filled sacs surrounding the eggs
- Difficulty conceiving due to infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods
- Skin tags, which are small excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
The exact cause of PCOS remains a subject of study, but several factors seem to play a role:
Insulin resistance: Up to 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, meaning their body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin. As a result, they produce more insulin, which might increase androgen production.
Inflammation: Women with PCOS often exhibit low-grade inflammation, which can prompt the ovaries to produce androgens.
Heredity: If your mother or sister has PCOS, your risk of having it might be increased.
While there’s no cure for PCOS, symptoms can be managed. Depending on the severity and the specific symptoms you’re experiencing, here are some common management strategies:
- Lifestyle Changes: A balanced diet and regular exercise can help manage weight and reduce insulin resistance.
- Medications: Birth control pills can regulate menstrual cycles and reduce male hormone levels. For those trying to conceive, fertility drugs might be an option.
- Procedures: In some cases, procedures like ovarian drilling (small holes made in the ovary with a laser or thin heated needle) can restore regular ovulation.
Managing PCOS begins with understanding its causes and symptoms, empowering you to take proactive steps toward treatment aligned with your health goals.
In the journey of women’s health, it’s essential to collaborate with knowledgeable and compassionate professionals. If you are grappling with symptoms or need guidance related to PCOS or any other aspect of reproductive health, South Avenue Women’s Services can help. We provide a wide range of well-woman care services like gynecological exams, pap smears, and birth control options for women in the Western NY area.