Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects one in 10 women of reproductive age. It is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, leading to symptoms such as irregular periods, weight gain, acne, hair loss or excessive hair growth on the face and body, and infertility.
Living with PCOs and managing it can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. This guide will provide valuable information about PCOS, including causes, treatments, coping strategies, diet tips, and more.
Table of Contents
What Is the Cause of PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a very common hormonal disorder that affects an estimated 10-15% of women across the world. While the exact cause remains unknown, it is thought to be linked to a combination of genetics, hormones, and lifestyle factors.
Genetic factors are thought to play a role in PCOS, as it often runs in families. This means the condition can be passed on from parents to their children. Additionally, it’s believed that certain hormones, such as insulin, androgens, and luteinizing hormone, contribute to the development of PCOS.
Other lifestyle factors like stress and diet can also affect the onset and severity of PCOS symptoms. For example, stress can lead to an increase in cortisol, which can cause insulin levels to rise, which then may contribute to PCOS development.
It’s important to note that PCOS is different for everyone, and there is no one-size-fits-all cause of the disorder.
PCOS is typically diagnosed through a combination of a physical exam and laboratory tests. Your doctor may examine you for signs of excess hair growth and acne, as well as get your weight and waist measurement. They will then order blood work to check your hormone levels, as well as an ultrasound scan to look for cysts on your ovaries.
Although there isn’t one specific test used to diagnose PCOS, these tests can help determine if PCOS is the underlying cause of your symptoms. Your doctor may also ask about your medical and family history to further assess whether PCOS may be the cause.
Treatments for Managing PCOS Symptoms
There are many treatments available that can help manage the symptoms of PCOS. Depending on the individual, some of these treatments may have better success than others.
- Birth control- Taking oral contraceptives can help reduce androgen levels which can help reduce some of the common symptoms such as acne, hair growth, and irregular periods.
- Lifestyle changes- Making healthier choices like eating better, reducing stress, and getting regular physical activity can help reduce symptoms and improve overall wellbeing.
- Medications- Certain medications may be prescribed to help manage PCOS, such as Metformin to help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Supplements- Herbal supplements like Saw Palmetto or even Vitamin D may be recommended by a doctor to help with certain PCOS symptoms.
It is important to speak with a doctor about the best treatment options for you.
Living with PCOS can be overwhelming, so it’s important to look for ways to manage the condition. Alternative therapies can help alleviate symptoms of PCOS while allowing you to have more control over your own health. Some of the most popular alternative therapies for PCOS include:
- Herbal supplements – Herbal supplements are natural remedies that can help with menstrual complications, hormones, inflammation, and more.
- Meditation – Meditation can help relieve stress and anxiety, which are common side effects of PCOS.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that can help regulate hormones balanced and reduce inflammation.
Many women with PCOS find that alternative therapies such as these can help them feel more in control of their condition and improve their quality of life. Even though these methods are not scientifically proven to cure PCOS, they can be an important tool for managing the syndrome. It’s important to discuss any alternative therapies you’re considering with your doctor to make sure they’re safe for you.
Coping with PCOS
Living with PCOS can be a challenging experience. It's important to prioritize your mental health and find ways to cope with the physical and emotional symptoms of PCOS. Here are some helpful tips to get you started on your journey to feeling better:
- Identify your triggers. Knowing what sets off your symptoms can help you better manage them.
- Practice self-care. Take time for yourself and do things that make you feel good, such as yoga, reading, or listening to music.
- Find support. Seek out both professional and emotional support from friends, family, and mentors.
- Educate yourself. Learn as much as possible about PCOS so that you can better understand and manage your symptoms.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Don't be afraid to talk about your emotions with someone you trust.
Remember, it’s ok to ask for help when you need it. Everyone has a unique experience with PCOS, but you're not alone.
Diet and Nutrition for PCOS
A proper diet is essential for managing PCOS and its symptoms. It's important to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods that are low in refined carbohydrates and added sugars. Eating a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help reduce symptoms of PCOS, such as insulin resistance and inflammation.
Foods to avoid include processed and refined foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. Trans fats, saturated fats, and hydrogenated oils are all linked to increased risk of insulin resistance, so it’s best to limit your intake. Caffeine and alcohol should also be limited, as they can worsen symptoms of PCOS.
Some foods have been shown to be beneficial for those living with PCOS. These include foods that are rich in fiber, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, and walnuts, can also help reduce inflammation. Lastly, plant proteins such as nuts and seeds, as well as soy-based products, can help balance hormone levels.
Exercise & Physical Activity
Exercise is a great way to manage the symptoms of PCOS. Regular physical activity can help with weight management, reduce insulin resistance, and lower the levels of hormones known to cause PCOS-related issues. Some of the recommended exercises for those living with PCOS include:
- Aerobics – Aerobic activities such as walking, running, swimming, and biking help the body burn calories efficiently.
- Strength Training – Weight training helps increase muscle mass which leads to a higher metabolism.
- Yoga – Yoga helps increase flexibility and reduce stress levels.
It is important to be consistent and vary your workouts to make sure they are effective. Setting realistic goals can help keep you motivated. Speak to your doctor about an exercise routine that is right for you.
Mental Health & Wellbeing
Living with PCOS can be difficult, both physically and emotionally. It is important to take care of your mental health and wellbeing while also managing the physical symptoms of PCOS. Here are some tips for maintaining your mental wellbeing when living with PCOS:
1. Talk to a therapist – if you feel overwhelmed, a therapist can help you learn ways to cope with the emotional rollercoaster that may come with PCOS.
2. Take time for yourself – it is important to practice self-care by doing something that helps you relax, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
3. Connect with other people – find support from other people who understand what you are going through. Join an online support group or find an in-person support group in your area.
4. Stay active – exercise can be beneficial for both your physical and mental health. Try to find an exercise routine that works for you.
5. Get enough sleep – the lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health. Aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night.
6. Practice positive self-talk – remind yourself that you are strong and capable of managing your PCOS symptoms. Focus on positive thinking and accept that you can’t control everything.
Fertility & Pregnancy
Women living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) often face challenges when it comes to fertility and pregnancy. A common symptom of PCOS is irregular or absent menstrual periods, which can make it difficult for women to conceive. Additionally, symptoms such as hormonal imbalances, obesity, and insulin resistance can all contribute to infertility in women with PCOS.
However, there are strategies available for those wanting to conceive. Many health care providers will recommend lifestyle changes such as optimizing diet, increasing physical activity, and reducing stress, which can all help to regulate hormones and increase fertility. If these changes are not effective, medications like Clomid can be prescribed to help stimulate ovulation. For more advanced cases, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) may be considered.
For those facing a successful pregnancy, there are still risks associated with PCOS. Women with PCOS are at an increased risk for gestational diabetes and preterm delivery. It is important to maintain regular checkups throughout pregnancy to ensure both mother and baby are healthy.
What Is Interventional Radiology?
Interventional radiology is a field of medicine that uses imaging techniques such as X-rays, MRI scans, ultrasound, and CT scans to treat conditions and diseases. Interventional radiologists use specialized instruments to diagnose and treat medical problems, and they may also use these techniques in combination with medications and other treatments. Interventional radiology can help those with PCOS by reducing hormone levels, restoring fertility, and improving the health of reproductive organs.
The procedures performed by interventional radiologists are minimally invasive, meaning that only small incisions are made in the body. This can reduce the risk of infection and tissue damage, and can also help with recovery time. Interventional radiology can be used to treat PCOS symptoms such as cysts, weight gain, acne, and hair loss.
Interventional radiology is an effective treatment for PCOS. However, it is important to note that this is a long-term solution, and it may take several months for results to become noticeable. Additionally, interventional radiology should be used in combination with lifestyle changes such as dietary modifications, exercise, and stress management to further reduce symptoms.
Living with PCOS can be a challenging experience, and it is important to understand how best to manage the syndrome. In this guide, we have covered all the essential information about PCOS, from diagnosis and treatments to diet and lifestyle strategies.
We discussed the importance of mental health and well-being, alternative therapies, and even interventional radiology, as well as fertility and pregnancy issues related to PCOS.
Now that you have an overview of PCOS, its symptoms, and potential treatments, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. What works for one individual might not work for everyone.
It is important to talk to your doctor or specialist for further advice, and to also connect with other people who are going through similar experiences. There are many resources available to offer support and help you stay positive and empowered during your PCOS journey.
Frequently Asked Questions about Living with PCOS
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder impacting 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. Symptoms include irregular periods, acne, and excessive hair growth and are caused by an imbalance of the hormones estrogen, progesterone and androgen.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
PCOS is typically diagnosed through blood work and ultrasounds.
What treatments are available for women with PCOS?
Treatments used to manage symptoms of PCOS include birth control pills, lifestyle changes, medications, supplements, herbal remedies, meditation, acupuncture, and interventional radiology.
Is there a specific diet that's recommended for those living with PCOS?
Yes, eating foods that are low-fat, low-sugar, high in fiber, and high in antioxidants can help manage the symptoms of PCOS.
What types of exercise are best for PCOS?
Exercises such as aerobic activity and weight training can help regulate hormones and reduce insulin resistance, both of which are key components in managing PCOS.
What is interventional radiology and how can it help with PCOS?
Interventional radiology is a minimally invasive procedure that involves inserting a needle into the ovaries to reduce the size and number of cysts, which can alleviate many of the symptoms of PCOS.
What other resources are available to help manage PCOS?
There are many resources available to help manage PCOS, such as online support groups, self-help books, blogs, and health professionals such as nutritionists, gynecologists, and mental health counselors.