PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that affects approximately 10% of the female population during their child bearing years. A female can begin to see symptoms as a teenager or later in life. It is important to note that it is not yet known know what really causes PCOS, which means that there is no cure. It is possible however to reduce the symptoms and keep it under control.
What is the condition?
Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a disorder that experts believe affects 1 out of every 10 women, though statistics show the rate is lower. The reason for this discrepancy is due to the fact that all too often the condition is misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. This is due in large part to the symptoms that can be present. One thing that is certain in every women is the upset that is felt emotionally and physically once they are diagnosed.
PCOS can cause significant long term health issues if the condition is misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. In most cases PCOS only impacts the reproductive system it is very important that a woman understands the polycystic ovary syndrome is actually a disease of the endocrine system.
Enlarged ovaries that are filled with many painless and small cysts are the main characteristics of PCOS.
The reason that PCOS is so difficult to diagnose is due to the fact that the symptoms that present often seem completely unrelated to one another. Also the symptoms are not consistent from patient to patient. One female may present with all of the symptoms, while the next will only present with one or two. Which then makes it very important for everyone to know and understand what the symptoms are.
• Menstrual Issues – period problems is the main symptom that 75% of all PCOS sufferers experience. The issues can be absent periods, irregular periods or infrequent periods and when the period does finally arrive it is very heavy. The fact that there isn’t a regular cycle is evidence that there is a problem with the woman’s ovulation. This is caused by the hormonal imbalance in the body. The main culprit behind missing the early diagnosis is that many teens start taking birth control pills to regulate periods, which then delays diagnosis until pills are stopped.
• Infertility – as stated above, the main symptom is menstrual issues due to the problems with the ovulation process it is not difficult then to understand why infertility is the second symptom. Keep in mind that not every person with PCOS has fertility problems, some woman just experience a delay in the ability to become pregnant, and others have no delay. For those that do not ovulate at all, there are fertility treatments available. This can be the time that many women find out they have PCOS, now that they are trying to conceive and having difficulty.
• Hair Growth – it is very common for a woman who has PCOS to notice that they are growing excess hair on their face or body or to notice that they are not growing hair at all. This is again due to the hormonal imbalance in the body. For some woman this can lead to male pattern baldness or thinning of the hair, or what can appear to be male hair growth.
• Skin – The hormonal imbalance can also cause numerous skin conditions such as acne (present on the face most often along the jaw line, and on the chest and back), oily skin, darkening of the skin and skin tags. It is important to pay attention to your body and any changes that may be taking place. If you notice that the skin in the groin, under the arms or around the neck is starting to get thicker or darker you may have a condition called Acanthosis Nigricans, which is due to insulin resistance in the body. (Important many now believe that insulin resistance is the main cause of PCOS.)
• Weight – obesity is also a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome, effecting about 40% of women with PCOS. Being overweight can be a catch 22. Meaning that being obese alone can trigger many of the symptoms associated with PCOS including menstrual problems and fertility issues. Which means that the symptoms would not be present in the same woman if she was at a healthy weight. Being overweight and truly having PCOS though will exacerbate the symptoms. Due to the imbalances in the body weight loss can be a challenge. It is not known at the moment if the weight gain is due to the hormonal imbalance or the insulin resistance, or both.
What causes it?
As stated in the beginning, it is not known what causes PCOS. There are two main schools of thought right now as to what the possibilities are. The first is genetics. Scientists have found that woman who have been diagnosed with PCOS also have a mother or a sister that has the condition as well.
The second school of thought is hormones. The body naturally secretes steroids and proteins into the blood stream to maintain proper function of many systems and processes in the body including your metabolism, fluid regulation, sexual function, reproduction and pregnancy. These hormones are secreted by the glands in the body. When there is a malfunction in the hormonal process each and every system is dramatically impacted by the malfunction.
What researchers are starting to note is that with this hormonal imbalance there seems to be one main hormone that could be the culprit and that is insulin. Insulin is the hormone in our body that controls the way the body changes sugars, starches and other foods into the energy that our body needs. What researchers have found is that in many women that have been diagnosed with PCOS is that they have unusually high levels of insulin in the body. Meaning that there is an insulin resistance.
This is important, because an increase in insulin in the body leads to an over production of another hormone, androgen which is made in the fat cells of the body as well as the ovaries and adrenal glands. An increase in androgen causes weight gain, excessive hair growth, acne and ovulation problems.
Diet and lifestyle advice
Making sure that you are making healthy food choices and healthy lifestyle choices will help you manage many of the symptoms of PCOS. This means that you exercise every day and you avoid eating foods that have been processed, or foods that have added sugars to them. Eating more fresh fruits and veggies as well as whole grain foods and lean meats will help lower the blood glucose levels in the body so that the body can more efficiently use the insulin in the body and stabilize or normalize hormone levels.
Keeping your weight down to a healthy level is absolutley key to keeping the symptoms under control
See Healthy Diet
The conventional approach
There are a number of conventional treatment options, again each treatment option focuses only on the symptoms, because there is no concrete evidence as to what causes PCOS.
• Birth control pills
• Diabetes medications
• Fertility medications
• Anti-androgen medications
• Ovarian drilling (surgery) – most often used when a woman does not respond to fertility treatments.
Most if not all of these options have negative side effects.
Acupuncture is an excellent complementary therapy that many women with PCOS use and find beneficial. The purpose of the acupuncture is to restore the natural balance within the body. There are literally hundreds of acupuncture points on the body that when each one is stimulated has its own healing effects. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to effectively treat most health conditions.
Once excess hair has grown it is rare for it to go of it's own accord. The best permanent options are Laser Hair Removal and the Epil Sonic Hair Removal. Laser hair removal works well for any dark hair, the Epil Sonic however can eliminate any colour hair - it uses sound waves to destroy the hair root.
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NB. This information is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any diseases or medical conditions. If you are unsure as to the suitability of any of the products or recommendations with regard to your condition please consult your doctor. If your doctor does not approve of natural health products it may be helpful to find one who does.