Bladder & Pelvic Health, Gynecology
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a genetic, hormone, metabolic, and reproductive disorder which can cause women to experience lifelong issues with obesity, endometrial cancer, type 2 diabetes, liver & cardiovascular disease, severe anxiety and depression, and infertility. It’s estimated that in that 1-in-10 women of childbearing age are affected by PCOS, but nearly 50% of those affected go undiagnosed.
We join with the PCOS Awareness Association this month in raising awareness this unfortunately common condition which so many have dubbed “the perfect hormonal storm”. We’ll examine what we know about the causes and symptoms of PCOS, then look at treatment and ways those affected can get the help they need.
While the root of the causes of PCOS aren’t fully understood, and studies are only now starting to make the connection between genetic triggers and family history of PCOS, the effect is an imbalance of hormones, with those affected showing forms of insulin resistance, and producing higher than normal amounts of male hormones like androgen or testosterone. This imbalance causes improper signals to the ovaries which release the egg as a part of normal menstrual cycle, causing severe interruption to normal menstrual function in the form of irregular or skipped periods, and a number of fluid-filled sacs or cysts in the ovaries. This is where the “polycystic” comes from, and these complications often result in significant obstacles to fertility for those with PCOS,
Since the 1700s, scientists have been trying to better understand the causes of this condition, and while this research continues today, so much is still unknown. Where strides have been made is in the recognition and diagnosis of symptoms.
There is no simple test for PCOS, so an open, honest, ongoing dialogue with your doctor is critical toward getting the help you need. Your physician will likely start with a review of your family history and discussion of your menstrual cycles and overall health and weight changes. From there, depending on your unique symptoms and history, the doctor will move on to a physical examination looking for the outward manifestations of the condition, more on that below, then may move on to recommend more in-depth examinations such as blood tests, ultrasound, or a pelvic exam.
If your doctor assigns a diagnosis of PCOS, additional, ongoing tests will likely be prescribed to evaluate the progression of the condition and to monitor your symptoms.
PCOS symptoms seem to manifest around the time of a woman’s first menstrual cycle, and frequently manifest in the following ways:
This list covers the most frequently encountered symptoms, but as we’ve shared, studies on this condition and how it may uniquely affect every woman based on unique genetic factors is ongoing. That’s why it is so important to start a conversation with your doctor and ask about PCOS and your risk before you suffer in silence—get help today.
Unfortunately, there is no simple cure for PCOS. Getting the help you need with PCOS starts with information and education from your doctor and trustworthy sources like Axia Women’s Health. Early recognition of symptoms and diagnosis can have a huge impact on living with the condition and the severity of your symptoms. While PCOS will manifest differently for each woman affected, approaches to treatment will include a combination of:
What’s most important is that you do seek help for any questions or concerns you have about PCOS and whether you are affected. The sooner the dialog starts, the sooner you can find relief and answers.
Infertility is one of the most common side effects of PCOS and is frequently at the core of diagnosis, but it does not mean that getting pregnant with PCOS isn’t an option! Some women are able to conceive naturally with PCOS with the help of treatments ranging from ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (IUI) to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
For those struggling with fertility conditions relating to PCOS in Pennsylvania, our friends at Sincera Reproductive Medicine have helped so many overcome this obstacle to begin their journey to fertility.
Similarly, for those in New Jersey who are struggling with fertility issues relating to PCOS, our partners at South Jersey Fertility provide compassionate, expert care that has helped thousands achieve their family building dreams.
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