Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) 101: All the Basics You Need to Know
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a condition caused by hormonal imbalances. These imbalances manifest as irregular periods, elevated testosterone levels, and cysts on the ovaries. PCOS is a very common condition that affects one out of every twelve women.
Excessive facial and body hair, acne, and rapid mood changes are all symptoms of high levels of testosterone and other androgens. Small cysts on the ovaries are another direct symptom of PCOS, though not everyone with the condition develops cysts. These cysts are not the same as ovarian cysts, which grow, rupture, and cause pain. It is critical to have PCOS checked and treated as soon as possible because if left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems such as;
- Type II Diabetes
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Sleep Apnea; when your breathing is constantly disturbed during sleep
- Fatty Liver Disease
In terms of symptoms, PCOS can mean different things to different people. Irregular menstrual cycles, or periods that become infrequent, frequent, unpredictable, or even absent, are among the more common symptoms. Inconsistencies in period flow, where the period flow is either very heavy or very light. New or excessive hair growth on the face and body, as well as rapid hair thinning on the scalp It can also cause skin problems such as oily skin, acne, and dark patches on the back of the neck. Other symptoms include insulin resistance, weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, infertility, depression, and anxiety.
PCOS symptoms can appear around the same time as your first period, leading many women to believe that these symptoms are normal for their period and not a sign of a problem. If a girl's periods are consistently irregular, that is, infrequent and/or absent for 2–3 years after her first period, she should see a doctor.
You're probably wondering why this occurs in the first place, as well as what causes it.
PCOS is a complex disorder characterized by hormonal imbalances and endocrine system dysfunction. The endocrine system is a network of hormone-secreting glands that regulate a variety of physiological and behavioral activities such as reproductive and sexual function, sleep, stress, and digestion, among others. However, there is still no clear indication of why PCOS occurs or what causes it; it also varies between people based on genetics, lifestyle, general behavior, and environment.
What can you do at home to help manage PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a lifelong condition, but there are a few things you can do to help reduce your symptoms, such as changing your diet and incorporating exercise into your daily routine. These changes can have a significant impact on the reduction of your daily symptoms, such as weight gain, hair loss, and skin issues. Limiting your carbohydrate and sugar intake will also assist in balancing your insulin levels, preventing inflammation, and raising your testosterone levels.
Women with PCOS often experience the following symptoms:
- Excess body hair growth (Hirsutism)
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight
- Moderate to severe acne
- Infrequent periods or no periods
Less common symptoms
- Hair thinning
- Insulin resistance
- Mood changes
- Unexplained tiredness
- Acanthosis nigricans (darkening and thickening of the skin)
Causes and Risk Factors
The fact that there are so many unanswered questions about PCOS stems from the fact that the exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Several theories have been proposed, but the majority of them have proven to be inconsistent and contentious, leaving us with no clear answer. It is thought to be caused by various interactions between genetic and environmental factors. Although most experts agree that PCOS runs in families, the inherited disorder is more likely to manifest itself in certain environmental and behavioral conditions, such as diet, medications, stress, and other lifestyle factors.
Your healthcare provider and you will most likely discuss treatment options once you have been diagnosed. There is no cure for PCOS at the moment. Medications, lifestyle changes, and other therapies aid in symptom management. Therapies are tailored to your symptoms and needs, including whether or not you want to become pregnant. Consult with your doctor and PCOS care team to determine the best treatment option for you. Here are a few options to consider:
Changes in lifestyle are the first-line treatment for PCOS, and even small changes of 5–10% have been shown to improve ovulation and metabolic dysfunction. Body weight reduction in overweight or obese women with PCOS can lower androgen levels, promote normal menstruation, and improve fertility.9
Weight loss can be aided by diet and exercise; however, most studies show only moderate or no weight loss10, even with intense workouts. Exercise programs, on the other hand, are highly recommended because they improve insulin resistance and lower cardiovascular risk.
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