Everything You Need To Know About PCOS

What Is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone disorder condition that is common among

woman of reproductive age (ages 15 to 44).  Between 2.2% and 26.7% of women in this age

group have PCOS. Many women have PCOS but don’t know it. In one study, up to 70% of

women with PCOS hadn’t been diagnosed.

Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male

hormone (androgen) levels.  The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid

(follicles) and fail to regularly release egg.


PCOS Signs and Symptoms

Women with PCOS often develop signs and symptoms around the time of the first menstrual

period during puberty. Others only discover they have PCOS after they’ve gained a lot of weight

or they’ve had trouble getting pregnant.

The most common PCOS symptoms are:

  • Irregular periods

A lack of ovulation prevents the uterine lining from shedding every month. Infrequent,

irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles are the most common sign of PCOS. Some women

with PCOS get fewer than eight periods a year or more than 35 days between periods and

abnormally heavy periods.

  • Heavy Bleeding

The uterine lining builds up for a longer period of time, so the periods you do get can be

heavier than normal.

  • Hair Growth

More than 70% of women with this condition grow hair on their face and body (hirsutism)

including on their back, belly, and chest called hirsutism.

  • Acne

Male hormones can make the skin oilier than usual and cause breakouts on areas like the

face, chest, and upper back.

  • Weight Gain

Up to 80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese.

  • Male-Pattern Baldness

Hair on the scalp gets thinner and fall out.

  • Darkening of the skin

Dark patches of skin can form in body creases like those on the neck, in the groin, and under

the breasts.

  • Headaches

Hormone changes can trigger headaches in some women

  • Excess androgen

The ovaries produce abnormally high levels of male hormone – androgen.

Types of PCOS

PCOS can look different form person to person, and the symptoms of different PCOS may

overlap each other. There are mainly 6 types of PCOS:

  1. Insulin – Resistant Type of PCOS

Up to 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, meaning that their cells can’t use

insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone the pancreas produces to help the body use sugar from

foods for energy. When cells can’t use insulin properly, the body’s demand for insulin increases.

The pancreas makes more insulin to compensate. Extra insulin triggers the ovaries to produce

more male hormones.

With insulin resistant PCOS, you have a decreased ability to properly manage your blood sugar.

Too much insulin can impair ovulation and tells the ovaries to produce more testosterone instead

of estrogen. It also stimulates your pituitary gland to make more luteinizing hormone.

  • Inflammatory Type of PCOS

Research has shown that women with PCOS have increased level of inflammation that stimulates

polycystic ovaries to produce androgens, which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems.

The signs of of body inflammation include IBS, chronic fatigue, headache, joint pain,

eczema or psoriasis etc.,  even food sensitivity. You may test C-reactive protein level to

check the level of inflammation.

  • Post – Pill Type of PCOS

If your periods were normal before taking birth control pills, and now you meet the

diagnostic criteria for PCOS, you may have the post-pill type of PCOS. But if you had

experienced PCOS symptoms before taking on pill, but never receive a formal

diagnosis, it is possible that you have PCOS .

  • Adrenal Type of PCOS

DHEA-S is your adrenal androgen. This testosterone is produced in the ovaries).

If DHEA-S is your only high androgen, this may indicate you have adrenal type of PCOS.

You want to check your prolactin levels and to rule out another condition that presents

similarly to PCOS called nonclassic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCAH). The

adrenal type of PCOS is driven by an abnormal stress response versus an impaired

insulin or blood sugar response as seen in the insulin-resistant type of PCOS.

  • Hidden Cause Type of PCOS

Hidden cause type of PCOS include thyroid disease because hypothyroidism affects

ovulation and can worsen insulin resistance, deficiencies in vitamin D, zinc, or iodine. As

your ovaries need these nutrients, elevated prolactin because of lacking Vitamin D, zinc

and iodine can increase DHEA.

  • Lean Type of PCOS

While weight struggles can be a symptom of PCOS (especially with insulin-resistant type

of PCOS), it’s entirely possible to have a lean type of PCOS in a lean body as well.

Complications of PCOS:

Infertility – To get pregnant, you have to ovulate. Women who don’t ovulate regularly do not release as many eggs to be fertilized. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.Gestational diabetes – high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Miscarriage or premature birth

Nonalcoholic Steatogepatitis – a severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver.

Metabolic Syndrome – Up to 80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Both

obesity and PCOS increase your risk for high blood sugar, high blood pressure, low HDL

(“good”) cholesterol, and high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Together, these factors are

called metabolic syndrome, and they increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and

stroke.

Sleep apnea – Sleep apnea causes repeated pauses in breathing during the night, which

interrupt sleep. Sleep apnea is more common in women who are overweight especially if

they also have PCOS. The risk for sleep apnea is 5 to 10 times higher in obese women

with PCOS than in those without PCOS.

Depression, Anxiety and Eating Disorder – Both hormonal changes and symptoms like

unwanted hair growth can negatively affect your emotions. Many with PCOS end up

experiencing depression and anxiety.

Endometrial Cancer – During ovulation, the uterine lining sheds. If you don’t ovulate

every month, the lining can build up. A thickened uterine lining can increase your risk for abnormal uterine bleeding and endometrial cancer.

How PCOS Is Dagnosed

Doctors typically diagnose PCOS in women who have at least two of these three symptoms:

  • high androgen levels
  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • cysts in the ovaries

Your doctor should also ask whether you’ve had symptoms like acne, face and body hair growth, and weight gain.

  • Pelvic Exam

A pelvic exam can look for any problems with your ovaries or other parts of your reproductive tract. During this test, your doctor inserts gloved fingers into your vagina and checks for any growths in your ovaries or uterus.

  • Blood Tests

Blood Tests check for higher-than-normal levels of male hormones. You might also have blood tests to check your cholesterol, insulin, and triglyceride levels to evaluate your risk for related conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

  • Ultrasound

An ultrasound uses sound waves to look for abnormal follicles and other problems with your ovaries and uterus.

Pregnancy and PCOS

PCOS interrupts the normal menstrual cycle and makes it harder to get pregnant. Between 70% and 80% percent of women with PCOS have fertility problems.

This condition can also increase the risk for pregnancy complication.

Women with PCOS are twice as likely as women without the condition to deliver their baby prematurely. They’re also at greater risk for miscarriage, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes.

Common Medical Treatments

Birth control pills and other medicines can help regulate the menstrual cycle and treat PCOS symptoms like hair growth and acne.

  • Birth Control Pill

Taking estrogen and progestin daily can restore a normal hormone balance, regulate ovulation, relieve symptoms like excess hair growth, and protect against endometrial cancer. These hormones come in a pill, patch or vaginal ring.

  • Metformin

Metformin (Glucophage, Fortamet) is a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes. It also treats PCOS by improving insulin levels.

  • Clomiphene

Clomiphene (Clomid) is a fertility drug that can help women with PCOS get pregnant. However, it increases the risk for twins and other multiple births.

  • Hair Removal Medicines

A few treatments can help get rid of unwanted hair or stop it from growing. Eflornithine (Vaniqa) cream is a prescription drug that slows hair growth.

  • Laser hair removal and electrolysis

Laser hair removal and electrolysis can get rid of unwanted hair on your face and body.

  • Surgery

Surgery can be an option to improve fertility if other treatments don’t work. Ovarian drilling is a procedure that makes tiny holes in the ovary with a laser or thin heated needle to restore normal ovulation.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

  • You’ve missed periods and you’re not pregnant;
  • You have symptoms of PCOS, such as hair growth on your face and body;
  • You’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 12 months but haven’t been successful;
  • You have symptoms of diabetes, such as excess thirst or hunger, blurred vision, or unexplained weight loss.

If you have PCOS, plan regular visits with your primary care doctor. You’ll need regular tests to check for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other possible complications.

When to see a functional nutrition practitioner

See a functional nutritionist if:

  • You’ve already seen your physician for PCOS;
  • You’ve already worked with your physician for PCOS with no result;
  • You are tired of taking birth control pills or other medication for PCOS;
  • You’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 12 months but haven’t been successful;
  • You are looking for alternative way to alleviate the symptoms of PCOS;
  • You are looking for alternative way to have a natural pregnancy;
  • You are looking for alternative way to loose 20 or 30 pounds;
  • You have symptoms of diabetes, such as excess thirst or hunger, blurred vision, or unexplained weight loss.

Please download the Functional Nutrition Intake Form, contact Viva Jun at lifestylemedicine4u@gmail.com for 15-minute 1 on 1 complimentary online consultation.

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Wei Wei Ning

About Wei Wei Ning

I am Wei Wei Ning, an author and a blogger of https://www.lifestylemedicine4u.com. I am a Certified Transition Lifestyle Coach, Holistic Functional Nutrition Counselor, Digital Entreprenuer and Digital Health & Lifestyle Educator.
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