Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Warning to Women

ovariesDo you, like many women, have an irregular period? Is your acne getting worse or are you gaining weight unexplainably?

Many people, even doctors, write these situations off as “a phase”, but it might be something more. You owe it to yourself to get checked out for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS is a common hormone problem among women of childbearing age. Their ovaries produce a higher amount of androgens than normal. PCOS causes the ovaries to form cysts, preventing egg release, and resulting in missed periods.

Are you at risk for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Women that have problems with blood sugar and insulin levels may also have hormonal problems. Blood sugar and insulin problems can lead to changes in hormone levels, even leading to increased levels of male hormones.

Some signs of PCOS include:

  • Problems with low blood sugar
  • Mood swings
  • Rapid weight gain specifically in the belly
  • Changes in menstrual periods or pelvic pain
  • Acne
  • Unusual hair growth

If you have the signs or symptoms of PCOS- seek treatment! If PCOS is left untreated, it may lead to further health complications. People with PCOS are at a high risk for heart disease, cancer of the uterus and diabetes.

Know your family history
Women at a high risk for PCOS may have a family history of female problems including problems with periods and with getting pregnant. If you have a family history of diabetes and you have signs of PCOS then you are at risk. Women with ovarian cysts are at risk for PCOS.

What can I expect when getting checked for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
When visiting your healthcare provider they will check your family and menstrual history. The provider will also check your weight, blood pressure, and perform a complete physical exam. If your provider suspects PCOS then they may order lab work and recommend an ultrasound.

The Bad and Good News
Bad news: There is no cure for PCOS
Good news: There are ways to control it
A Healthy diet and lifestyle is a great way to control PCOS and to prevent illness.

Focus on:

  • Controlling blood sugar levels
  • Cutting down on simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates include whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables. Doing this will help control insulin and blood sugar levels.
  • Eating small meals every 3 to 4 hours will help keep blood sugar levels steady.
  • Physical activity to keep blood sugar and insulin levels under control. Moderate physical activity for as little as 10 minutes, 3 times a day around meal time will help your body use food as energy.
  • Consider discussing medication options with your doctor.

Making healthy decisions will lead to healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle that will reap great benefits for you- whether you have PCOS or not! No one can do this perfectly and making a change can be hard. But take it step by step and aim for making a healthy change 80% of the time.

This article is courtesy of Health Educator Alicia Courerier and ARNP/OBGYN Dixie Thompson of the Pensacola Health Clinic for Women. They are located in our Clinic on 12th Avenue and we’ve loved having them!