September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome awareness month. Are you aware?
Organic NUTritionist recently wrote a blog entry called “What can cause you to be overweight?”, in which he/she mentioned Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Since September is PCOS awareness month, I wanted to share my story in hopes of raising awareness about this disorder.
I was diagnosed at age 17 with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I had known for years that “something was wrong with me,” but I couldn’t get any doctors to take my complaints seriously. They always had excuses for my symptoms (more info below), from “teen girls have irregular periods” to “you Middle Easterners are a hairy people” to “she must be sneaking food.” (This last one was directed at my mother, with me in the room.)
In addition to the physical toll that this disease has taken, it has also taken a huge emotional toll. The disorder is very cosmetic and “physical” in that the symptoms are highly visible, but most people don’t know what they’re seeing. What they see – to put it kindly – is a woman who looks the opposite of our societal ideal of what a woman should look alike.
This disorder is something I rarely talk about – mainly out of shame and embarrassment – but I’m tired of feeling ashamed and embarrassed by something I didn’t choose. And let me make it very very clear – I would never have chosen this, and I wish I didn’t have it. But, it’s something I live with every day, and I figure, if I had the nerve to get onstage after 9/11 and tell airport security jokes, then I have the nerve to be open about my disease.
So without further ado, here’s some basic information about the disorder. And you can always learn more by Googling “PCOS.” If these symptoms sound familiar to you, or if they’re ringing true about your sister, friend, roommate, daughter, etc, then please find a reputable doctor in your area.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a health problem that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, ability to have children, hormones, heart, blood vessels, and appearance.
How many women have PCOS?
About one in ten women of childbearing age has PCOS. It can occur in girls as young as 11 years old.
What causes PCOS?
The cause of PCOS is unknown. Most researchers think that more than one factor could play a role in developing PCOS. Genes are thought to be one factor. Researchers also think insulin could be linked to PCOS.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Not all women with PCOS share the same symptoms. These are some of the symptoms of PCOS:
– infrequent menstrual periods, no menstrual periods, and/or irregular bleeding
– hirsutism: increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes
– ovarian cysts
– acne, oily skin, or dandruff
– weight gain or obesity, usually carrying extra weight around the waist
– insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes
– high cholesterol
– high blood pressure
– male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
– patches of thickened and dark brown or black skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs
– skin tags, or tiny excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
– pelvic pain
– anxiety or depression due to appearance and/or infertility
– sleep apnea: excessive snoring and times when breathing stops while asleep
What tests are used to diagnose PCOS?
There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. Your doctor will take a medical history, perform a physical exam, and possibly take some tests to rule out other causes of your symptoms.
How is PCOS treated?
Because there is no cure for PCOS, it needs to be managed to prevent problems. Treatment goals are based on your symptoms.
Does PCOS put women at risk for other health problems?
Women with PCOS have greater chances of developing several serious, life-threatening diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer.
How can I cope with the emotional effects of PCOS?
Having PCOS can be difficult. Many women are embarrassed by their appearance. Others may worry about being able to get pregnant. Some women with PCOS might get depressed. Getting treatment for PCOS can help with these concerns and help boost a woman’s self-esteem. Support groups located across the United States and on-line also can help women with PCOS deal with the emotional affects.