PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is something I’ve struggled with most of my life. I went through puberty at a pretty young age (I was about 10 years old). The first time I had a cyst rupture I was at school in the middle of gym class. I had to call my parents to bring me home. This particular cyst wasn’t too bad and the pain went away after about an hour. Of course, my family and I didn’t know that’s what had happened. We just assumed I had a stomach ache or something.
PCOS is one of the most common endocrine disorders in women. It affects 5-10% of women that are of reproductive age. It’s caused by the body’s insensitivity to the hormone insulin. Even though it’s such a common illness it often goes undiagnosed for years. In fact, I continued to get cysts on my ovaries and didn’t get an actual diagnosis of PCOS until I was 19 years old. But a lot of women go undiagnosed for even longer.
Could You Have PCOS?
Everyone is a little different and may not experience all symptoms related to PCOS. But some common symptoms include oligomenorrhea (or infrequent periods), amenorrhoea (the total absence of menstruation), hirsutism (unwanted or excessive body hair growth), oily skin, acne, weight gain, difficulty losing weight.
And one of the worst symptoms of all is infertility (due to a lack of ovulation). PCOS is actually one of the leading causes of infertility.
The symptom that gives me the most trouble is the development of cysts on the ovaries. Ovarian cysts usually don’t cause any serious issues, but they can be incredibly painful. Most of the time when I have a cyst I don’t even know it’s there until I make some kind of sudden movement. Then the cyst ruptures causing a lot of pain in my lower abdomen. Usually, the pain isn’t TOO severe and doesn’t last for more than an hour (and then I’m just sore after that). But until the pain goes away I can’t walk or stand up straight. They can be even worse though. One time I had a cyst that caused so much pain when it ruptured that I had to go to the ER. The pain didn’t even start to go away for nearly 6 hours.
But you can have PCOS without getting ovarian cysts. And the presence of cysts doesn’t always mean you have PCOS.
What If You Have PCOS Symptoms?
If you believe you might have PCOS you should talk to your doctor. If you are diagnosed with it you might be put on birth control pills to regulate your hormones. If I don’t take birth control my periods are very erratic and painful.
Everyone is different so depending on your symptoms you might also be prescribed androgen-lowering medications, like spironolactone. Sometimes these drugs can also help reduce unwanted hair growth and acne.
If you’re overweight your doctor will likely tell you to lose some weight. It can be really hard to burn fat when you have PCOS but sometimes even just losing 10 pounds is enough to help. You should also look into lowering your carbohydrate intake since PCOS has been linked to insulin resistance.
Life with PCOS can be hard but if you work with your doctors it can be manageable and in most cases, you can reduce your symptoms.
(If you issues with acne you might want to check out How To Get Rid Of Acne.)