Have you ever experienced irregular periods, weight gain, or acne that just won’t go away?
If so, well, it could be that you have a condition called PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). PCOS is a condition where the ovaries don’t produce normal amounts of hormones and can cause irregular menstrual cycles and other health issues.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at PCOS—what it is, how it’s related to menstrual irregularities, and what you can do to address it.
Let’s dive in!
Overview of PCOS
PCOS is a common endocrine disorder that affects women of reproductive age, often leading to menstrual irregularities, infertility, and other symptoms. PCOS is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, which can disrupt the normal functioning of the female reproductive system.
The disorder can manifest in a variety of physical and mental symptoms, including excessive hair growth, acne breakouts, and mood swings. Hormonal imbalances are also common in individuals with PCOS, ranging from fluctuations in estrogen to increased levels of insulin. These hormonal imbalances can cause irregular periods, which is one of the most common warning signs that someone may have PCOS.
Irregular periods are one of the most common symptoms associated with PCOS, but other possible signs include weight gain or difficulty losing weight, fertility issues or difficulty conceiving, and skin discoloration or dark patches on your skin (known as acanthosis nigricans). If you have any combination of these symptoms you should speak to your doctor about testing for PCOS.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of PCOS?
The signs and symptoms of PCOS can vary between individuals, but the most common ones include:
1. Irregular or infrequent menstrual cycles: Women with PCOS often have irregular or infrequent periods, ranging from having less than nine periods a year to no periods at all
2. Excess androgen levels: Androgens are male hormones that are present in both men and women. High levels of androgens can cause symptoms such as hirsutism (excess facial and body hair), acne, and male-pattern baldness
3. Polycystic ovaries: Ovaries in women with PCOS may have an increased number of follicles, which are small sacs filled with fluid. These result in enlarged ovaries that can cause pain in the abdomen or pelvic region
PCOS can also lead to insulin resistance, which can cause weight gain, acanthosis nigricans (darkening of the skin), headaches, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The presence of these signs and symptoms does not necessarily indicate a diagnosis of PCOS; consulting a healthcare professional is recommended to accurately diagnose the condition.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
When it comes to diagnosing PCOS, there’s a lot to consider. To diagnose PCOS, a doctor will take into account your medical history, physical signs, and symptoms, as well as laboratory tests and/or imaging procedures.
1. Medical History
Your doctor will ask about your medical history and menstrual cycle to get a full picture of your condition. This might include questions about when you started having irregular periods if you notice any abnormal symptoms or signs, medications you are taking (including birth control), family history of PCOS, or any associated health issues such as diabetes or excess hair growth.
2. Physical Signs and Symptoms
A physical exam is also standard with diagnosing PCOS. Your doctor will pay specific attention to any signs or symptoms that might point to an underlying hormonal imbalance. This might include physical features such as extra hair growth on the face or body, or blood tests that reveal high levels of insulin or testosterone in the blood.
3. Imaging Tests
Your doctor may also order imaging tests such as an ultrasound of the ovaries to look for multiple small follicles which may indicate the presence of PCOS hormones – however, this is not always reliable. Additionally, a pelvic ultrasound may reveal enlarged ovaries with cysts, which is another common characteristic of PCOS.
How PCOS Can Be Treated?
Now that you know more about the relationship between PCOS and menstrual irregularities, let’s talk about what you can do about it.
There are a few treatment options available for PCOS, depending on your symptoms and overall goals.
1. Hormonal Therapy
Hormonal therapy is usually prescribed to treat the underlying hormonal imbalance that leads to PCOS. A doctor might suggest certain birth control pills or hormone-regulating drugs like spironolactone to help reduce testosterone levels in women with PCOS.
2. Diet and Exercise
Making changes to your diet and increasing your physical activity can also help reduce symptoms of PCOS. Eating a nutritious, low-carbohydrate diet can help regulate hormones, while regular exercise helps to boost fertility, reduce extra weight gain, and balance hormones.
3. Natural Remedies
In addition to medical treatments, there are also natural remedies for PCOS. For example, supplementing with Vitamin D might help improve insulin sensitivity, reduce acne symptoms, repair reproductive tissues, and improve fertility. Additionally, taking herbal supplements like chaste berry might help reduce excess hormones and stimulate ovulation in women with PCOS.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes to Manage PCOS
Though PCOS has no cure, there are many ways to manage it. One of the proven methods is eating a healthy and balanced diet, as well as exercising regularly. Eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods can help balance your hormones while also boosting hair health, skin health, and even reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is common in women with PCOS. Additionally, moderate exercises such as yoga or walking can help you shed weight and reduce PCOS symptoms.
It’s important to note that though diet and lifestyle changes have been shown to be beneficial in managing PCOS, results may take some time before they are seen. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables
- Include lean proteins such as chicken or fish
- Limit your intake of refined carbs like white bread and pasta
- Avoid processed foods
- Exercise regularly
- Cut back on unhealthy fats like trans fats
- Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption
By focusing on a healthy lifestyle, you can significantly reduce your PCOS symptoms – including menstrual irregularities – and better manage your condition overall.
How is PCOS Related to Menstrual Irregularities?
PCOS is closely linked to menstrual irregularities, such as anovulation (failure to ovulate) or oligomenorrhea (infrequent or light menstrual cycles). It’s common for women with PCOS to experience infrequent periods, which can be accompanied by other symptoms such as weight gain, acne, and hair growth on the face and body.
That’s because PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalances that disrupt the normal production of reproductive hormones in the body. Women with PCOS often have higher levels of male sex hormones known as androgens, causing an increase in testosterone-related symptoms. This imbalance may prevent a woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg each month, making it difficult for her to become pregnant.
Other symptoms associated with PCOS-related menstrual irregularities may include:
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Missed periods
- Heavy or very light periods
- Longer than usual intervals between periods
- Absent or infrequent periods
- Anovulatory cycle (no ovulation)
For women who experience any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to a doctor who can diagnose and treat the underlying hormone issues causing them. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious issues including infertility.
PCOS is a condition that affects many women and can cause a wide range of symptoms. While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, it has been linked to lifestyle factors and genetics. It is also associated with a higher risk of developing certain health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Women who experience menstrual irregularities should talk to their doctor about the possibility of PCOS. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for maintaining long-term health. Treatment for PCOS may include lifestyle changes, medications, or surgery, and should be tailored to the individual’s needs.
Indeed, PCOS can be a difficult condition to manage, but with proper treatment and support, it is possible to manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of developing related health conditions. With the right information and care, women with PCOS can manage their symptoms and live healthy, fulfilling lives.