PCOS is said to affect 1 in 10 women yet it is wildly under discussed.
While it affects this many women it is something many women are unaware of and is often over looked by GPs as not that serious an issue even though its effects can be quite devastating for women when it goes untreated.
Here is a breakdown of what PCOS is and what symptoms to look out for.
What is PCOS
PCOS stands for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. It affects women of reproductive age and is a result of unbalanced hormones.
Women with PCOS typically have a higher number of androgens and therefore have a higher level of testosterone. This can mean that they ovulate less and have irregular periods. Because of this women with PCOS can have trouble with fertility, and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. But don’t freak out! PCOS is very treatable today and there are a number of different approaches you can take to treating it!
There’s nothing to worry about when it comes to PCOS, but it’s always good to understand your body.
What are the symptoms
The reason PCOS, especially in teens, often goes undiagnosed is that many GPs chalk the symptoms down to changes that are happening due to puberty and this is why so many women don’t realise they even have it until later in life when they are trying to conceive.
The main symptoms of PCOS are:
- Irregular/absence of periods and painful periods
- Cysts on ovaries
- Weight fluctuations and difficulty losing weight
- Excessive hair growth, usually on the face, chest and back
- thinning hair
While there are a number of symptoms of PCOS it is typically diagnosed by the presence of two of the three main symptoms – high androgen levels, irregular periods and cysts on the ovaries.
What to do if you think you have PCOS
Diagnosing PCOS in teens can be difficult as it can take years for a menstrual cycle to sync up and become regular. And just because your period may not be regular doesn’t mean that you have definitely have PCOS.
If you struggle with some or any of the above symptoms it is worth talking to your GP about and getting a set of blood work done to determine your hormone levels are in check for your own peace of mind and so you know best how to look after your body.
How to treat PCOS
If you are diagnosed with PCOS in your teens don’t worry there is a lot you can do to help the symptoms. It can be quite a daunting and upsetting time but know that there are options for you and that by taking certain steps you can help if not completely reverse some of the symptoms.
Your GP will more than likely prescribe a birth control pill and in some cases metformin depending on the condition of your weight and blood sugar levels. This can be a great way of balancing your hormones out and treating acne however, it is worth noting that the Pill doesn’t treat the underlying cause and can often just mask the symptoms.
Some simple diet and lifestyle changes can work wonders for the symptoms and can help you long-term.
In terms of diet it is recommended that women with PCOS avoid or limit dairy as it can raise their insulin levels. Limiting processed carbohydrates is recommended as well to avoid spiking insulin levels. Simply swapping out white carbs for wholemeal can be all you need to do. Making sure you eat enough protein is recommended for women with PCOS as well!
Exercise is another great way of managing symptoms as it can help with weight difficulties. It is recommended that you do low-impact exercise as not to put the body under too much stress! So simply walking more or exercising with weights could be the option for you.
It might be worth your while trying to change up your diet and fitness routines first to see if any of the symptoms improve but whatever treatment you choose, choose the one that works best for you.
You can read about PCOS more on hse.ie.