Recently PCOS has featured a couple of times on the TV show: “Embarrassing Bodies” here in the UK. As if having Endometriosis wasn’t bad enough, I’ve got PCOS as well. I therefore had no problem identifying the PCOS sufferers on the programme.
As with endometriosis, PCOS can take a few years to diagnose. In my case, I can almost understand the confusion when diagnosing: I don’t have the principal symptom of menstrual disturbance because I’ve been taking the birth control pill for so many years. However, when I was a young teen, my symptoms included: acne (At one point I was on a course of tetracycline for my acne), a slight excess of hair growth (Hey Mom! Remember how sensitive I was about developing a moustache when I was still in high school?!), skin tags and dandruff. As far as I was concerned, my skin and hair couldn’t possibly be related to my ovaries!
Infertility is also a symptom and I was found to have the characteristic multiple small cysts in the ovaries during an ultrasound scan. The three symptoms that define PCOS are: polycystic ovaries, raised male hormone levels and reduced ovulation.
Other symptoms for less lucky women include more severe male patterned hair growth and male patterned baldness. For me, the excess dark facial hair and dark back hair were the obvious symptoms that identified the patients on Embarrassing Bodies. I felt sorry for them and I feel I have to ask: how desperate must you be to go on national television in order to get treatment? I don’t know why these people cannot seem to get treatment they need from their own doctors but I find it scandalous that someone would feel the need to parade themselves on national TV. Could it be that people want to raise awareness for their maladies? Or are they irretrievably stupid?
As with endometriosis, women with PCOS have a higher risk for other illnesses. For PCOS these include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer of the endometrium (uterine lining) and endometrial cancer (uterus).
While I’m not overweight, obesity is associated with PCOS. I also have insulin resistance (which I regularly call prediabetes for ease of understanding). Women with PCOS are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes – particularly if we have a family history of diabetes.
Like endometriosis, there is no cure for PCOS and treatment is normally directed to manifestations of PCOS: I am on a PCOS diet and may be prescribed with Metformin (Glucophage) should my insulin resistance symptoms worsen. For women with particularly low oestrogen levels, they are given HRT patches. Unfortunately for me, it was the HRT patches that worsened my endometriosis symptoms and ultimately made me beg for my third laparoscopy to clear the growing endo. Balance of hormones is, for me, the trick that I’ve had to work to achieve.
Finally, like Endo, PCOS is frightfully common. Research studies of women who had an ultrasound scan of their ovaries found that up to 1 in 4 women have polycystic ovaries. Many of these women were otherwise healthy, ovulated normally and did not have high levels of mal hormones. It is thought that up to 1 in 10 women have polycystic ovary syndrome (i.e. at least two of polycystic ovaries, raised male hormone levels and reduced ovulation) but it is thought that these figures may be higher.
Wishing us all a healthier tomorrow!