Irregular periods and hair growing places you were pretty sure it doesn’t belong might be more than irritating life struggles.
They could be early signs that you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, five to 10 percent of American women ages 15 to 44 have PCOS, but might not know it. Often, these women learn about the syndrome from their doctors when they experience problems conceiving.
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
PCOS is a set of symptoms caused by a rise in androgens in otherwise healthy women.
It’s currently believed to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Women are diagnosed with PCOS when they present with at least two of these symptoms: irregular periods, excess androgen levels and polycystic ovaries.
In addition to these symptoms, women with PCOS regularly experience:
- Hormone imbalances can do awful things to your skin, too. Acne is just one that PCOS brings about.
- Weight gain. Not only do women with this condition often experience weight gain, accompanying insulin resistance can make it very hard for them to lose that weight.
- Excessive hair. Darker hair growth on the face, chest and stomach or even thumbs and toes could point to PCOS. Everyone has peach fuzz in these areas, but thick or dark hair tells another story.
- Darkening skin. Patches of skin found along neck creases, in the groin area and underneath breasts may darken noticeably in women with PCOS.
- Fertility problems. Since PCOS can make it difficult for your eggs to reach full maturity or release from the ovary, the chances of falling pregnant decrease accordingly.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can wreak havoc with your hormones, ultimately causing problems like chronic depression.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but most women with PCOS will find that these symptoms sound eerily familiar. Because living with PCOS can also mean eventually juggling complications like insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes, it’s important to be diagnosed as soon as possible if you suspect you may have the syndrome.
Living Better with PCOS
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is one of many conditions that may respond favorably to efforts you can make on your own. Dietary and activity modification can make a huge difference in your health.
You might be surprised by just how well lifestyle changes can make you feel, here are a few to start with:
- Lose weight. Losing weight can be one of the toughest things you do for your PCOS, but dropping just five percent of your body weight can make a huge impact on how well it functions. Setting small goals, then achieving them, can keep the weight loss momentum going until you reach your goal weight.
- Exercise regularly. Even if you’re not exercising to shed pounds, it’s important that you get up and move. If you’re currently a couch potato, work your way up from a couple of 20-minute sessions a week to some kind of significant activity five days a week. Running, boxing, or even Sweating to the Oldies will improve your confidence and help you reduce insulin resistance, making it easier to manage your PCOS.
- Eat a diabetic diet. There are several diets out there geared toward women with PCOS, but the best diets are the ones that limit your carbohydrate intake and encourage the consumption of vegetable fiber and lowfat proteins. Turning this sort of eating into a lifestyle, rather than relying on fad diets, can give you the skills you need if you’re one of the many women with PCOS who go on to develop pre-diabetes.
These are just the basics of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, researchers are learning more about the complicated syndrome every day. It can be a frustrating diagnosis, but it’s manageable if you keep your weight, activity level and diet in mind.