I’ve never been one of those people to censor myself or not talk/write about something that’s sensitive. But some things truly are very private. So this post is difficult to write, due to its private, sensitive nature.
PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is typically caused by an imbalance of hormones. This usually means that the woman has elevated testosterone levels and low estrogen levels (which is a dream to some men, as it can increase the sex drive intensely). This disrupts the menstrual cycle and forces small cysts to form on the ovaries, preventing ovulation. Symptoms may include: irregular or absent menses; numerous cysts on the ovaries in many, but not all, cases; high blood pressure; acne; elevated insulin levels, insulin resistance, or diabetes; infertility; excess hair on the face and body (hirsutism); thinning of the scalp hair (alopecia); weight problems or obesity that is centered around your mid section.
As a teenager I had some of the symptoms, but they were easily explained away by varying amounts of exercise, stress, and the teenage body getting used to adult hormones. At age 16, though, I started taking birth control pills to regulate my cycle. Thanks to the birth control pills, all the symptoms I was having went away because my hormones went back to levels much closer to normal. I stayed on hormones (birth control pills) until March of 2007, when my husband and I decided we might want to try to start a family. We never really even started trying because, very quickly, I began having symptoms. We couldn’t figure out what was going on. First, I was gaining weight, despite eating well and exercising. Then I was sweating profusely, much more than ever before. My cycle was completely irregular. Sometimes I would go two months without menstruating, other times it would last up to two weeks. My skin broke out in all sorts of acne – the kind I haven’t had since I was about 13. I was depressed, because nothing I tried (and believe me, I tried everything I could do) helped with my weight, my cycle, or my acne. When I got the first black hair on my neck, my world crumbled. I was in such a dark place. It was so embarrassing. I pulled it and hoped it wouldn’t come back. When it did, I began to think that maybe everything that was going on with my body was related. I researched my symptoms on the Internet and decided it was time to go to the doctor, even though we didn’t have insurance.
I went to the doctor and she examined me. The ultrasound revealed a whole bunch of cysts on my ovaries. The blood test came back and my level of testosterone was at the level where my estrogen was supposed to be. And I had as much estrogen as I was supposed to have of testosterone. Both these things combined indicated PCOS. So I began my new regimen of birth control – Yaz, for its unique properties. It’s now four months later and my acne has cleared up, my little black hair is gone, and my cycle is regulated. It seems like I am still having trouble losing weight, but that will come with time. And I have to learn to manage the other things going on in my life.
PCOS affects between 6-10% of women in their childbearing years and awareness of this condition is minimal. The lack of awareness contributes to many women’s confusion when they are experiencing these symptoms. It may also be difficult to diagnose, because not all doctors are familiar with PCOS. For more information, please visit http://www.pcosupport.org/ or http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/964648419.html.