What is PCOS?

So… when I first found out that I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), I thought it was just about having cysts on your ovaries, not being very fertile and acne.  But it is so much more than that.  Your whole body is involved and it can affect so many other things.  This is my simple (maybe a bit over simplified) explanation.

The cause of PCOS is unknown so it’s hard to say how to prevent it.  It could be something to do with genetics (I personally don’t know of any relatives that have it), insulin resistance and unhealthy lifestyle.  Being overweight can make PCOS symptoms worse but isn’t a “cause” as such.  I for one am not overweight and still have PCOS.

The main problem with PCOS is that there is too much male hormones in the system which causes problems with ovulation (which is why we get cysts on our ovaries), irregular periods (the one thing I wouldn’t mind but don’t have), acne and the awful extra hair growth etc.  The flowchart below is a basic overview of some of the factors in PCOS.

PCOSflowchart

There can also be insulin resistance in PCOS.  Insulin’s main role in the body is to get sugar (glucose) from the blood into the parts of the body that need it.  If your are insulin resistance you body will release insulin but basically won’t let it do it’s job properly.  If this happens you will have a lot of insulin floating around which can actually cause an increase in your male hormones which stinks.  The insulin resistance is part of the reason women with PCOS are at high risk of diabetes, but not all women with PCOS are insulin resistant.

So I mentioned some symptoms of PCOS but here is a full list (you don’t always have all of these symptoms):

  • Irregular, infrequent or heavy periods
  • Acne
  • Excessive hair growth on face and other unwanted areas
  • Hair loss from where you actually want hair on your head
  • Problems with falling pregnant
  • Psychological effects which I don’t think are “part of” PCOS but more because of PCOS (eg. depression, low self esteem, poor body image)

Some of the risks are:

  • Insulin resistance – this can be there from the start and if not you are at higher risk of developing it.  This can cause weight increase, increase risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Cardiovascular disease – higher risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol which in turn will lead to risk of heart disease
  • Endometrial cancer – this is because of irregular periods

To read more about PCOS and get a proper explanation go to http://www.managingpcos.org.au/about-pcos

Or this YouTube video is pretty good at explaining it all, plus it goes into medications and treatment a little

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