All Things Periods

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Explained

You may have heard the term Polycystic Ovary Syndrome before, or the abbreviation of PCOS. But, what does that even mean? We’re about to give you the Libra lowdown. Let’s do this…

 

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and what causes it?

Basically, girls produce the hormone oestrogen, whereas guys have all of that brooding testosterone. The plot twist? In addition to oestrogen, us gals have these things called androgens. (Bear with us, this can get kinda confusing). These are male hormones that females also make.

Sometimes, ovaries pump out more androgens than what’s considered normal, and this is called hyperandrogenism. These high levels of male hormones can tamper with our healthy ovulation  process, and the imbalance can even cause some weird, little follicles to grow off the ovaries. These follicles lead to the formation of cysts, and that’s exactly where the ‘cyst’ part of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome comes from.

Unfortunately, the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, however links have been made with insulin resistance, family history, as well as lifestyle.

 

Is PCO the same as PCOS?

You may have a girlfriend who says they have polycystic ovaries (PCO). PCO however, is different to PCOS. Say what?! PCO is a normal variation of a woman’s ovary and actually affects up to a third of menstruating women. These ladies will have polycystic ovaries visible on an ultrasound, but typically no other symptoms.

PCOS on the other hand, is a diagnosed metabolic disorder, affecting just 12-18% of women. The symptoms of PCOS often begin to show in teenage years and the condition has short and long-term impact. To remember the difference between PCO and PCOS, think “S” for PCOS symptoms!

 

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Okay, we don’t have X-ray vision. But, while we can’t see what’s going on with our ovaries without visiting the Doc, the below symptoms can act like alarm bells to signal if PCOS may be affecting our daily routines. If something’s not quite right, never just #dealwithit, girl.

Possible PCOS symptoms include:

  • Weight gain
  • Irregular or reaaally heavy periods
  • Other menstrual problems. Aka, you might not be getting your period
  • Crazy, volcanic acne that doesn’t seem to clear up (no matter how many pamper sessions you throw with the gals)
  • Significantly increased hair growth.

Always remember the Golden Rule of a medical diagnosis: if you’re ever (even just slightly) unsure about any out-there body changes, touch base with your Doc! They’re the expert!

How will my Doc test for PCOS?

Your GP can use a variety of methods to find clues that can confirm or totally rule out Polycystic Ovary Syndrome for you:

  • Ultrasounds: are nahhht just reserved to baby bumps. A typical PCOS ultrasound reveals a high density of cysts on the ovary, which kinda resemble ‘black holes’ on a projection, and are often arranged like a string of pearls. The size of one or both ovaries will also look increased.
  • Blood test: A simple blood test can be completed to suss your hormone levels. Your Doc will check if those male hormones (androgens) are in high quantity throughout your bloodstream.

Sometimes, PCOS can be tough to quickly diagnose, as it’s a notoriously difficult syndrome to pin down. Why? Well, not every woman with PCOS will have every symptom, and each woman will be quite individual in her experience.

 

Okay, when can a PCOS diagnosis actually be made?

A diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome can be made when at least two out of three of the following symptoms have been detected after some testing:

  • The ovaries are ‘polycystic’ because 12 or more follicles are visible on one ovary, or the size of one or both ovaries is increased.
  • There are high levels of ‘male’ hormones showing up from blood test results, or this is suggested by unusual facial or body hair growth and acne.
  • There are some major menstrual issues going on, such as a lack of periods or menstrual irregularity.

 

What are the available treatment options for PCOS?

Good news. It’s all about management when it comes to PCOS. Your Doc will run you through a list of lifestyle adjustments you can make in your daily routine such a deliciously healthy diet and regular physical activity. On top of this, there’s also medications and therapies that can be undertaken to treat PCOS and help you #doyou.

Some of the available medications include:

  • The oral contraceptive pill
  • Hormones called gonadotropins
  • Testosterone-lowering drugs
  • Weight-loss drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety drugs.

 

Phewph. That was A LOT to take in. We hope that this has given you and your girlfriends a newfound understanding of PCOS: an often misunderstood fem health concern. As always, we suggest you give your Doc a friendly call if this article has brought up any worries (no matter how big or small) for you!

 

Love Libra x

Anything else? Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.