Six Top Things To Know About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

If you’ve been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, you may have a lot of questions – here are the top things to know

Woman smiling in understanding polycystic ovary syndrome | Loma Linda University Center for IVF & Infertility | Loma Linda, CA

It’s important to gain a better understanding of what polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is and how it affects the body. The more a woman knows, the easier it is for her to make healthy lifestyle changes that will help manage symptoms.

We’ve put together a list of the top things to know about PCOS so patients can gain a better understanding of the condition and start making positive changes for their health.

6 things to know about polycystic ovary syndrome

1. What is PCOS

The first thing to understand about polycystic ovary syndrome is that it’s a very complex hormonal condition that can affect women in many different ways. Notably, it can cause changes to hair, skin, weight, menstrual cycles, mental health and fertility. This is a hormonal disorder that stops eggs from reaching maturation and often creates multiple cysts and enlarges the ovaries.

2. Early signs of polycystic ovary syndrome

As with any condition, identifying signs early is crucial for timely diagnosis and effective management. Here are some of the first signs of PCOS to be aware of.

  • Irregular periods: unpredictable cycles, i.e., shorter, longer or skipped.
  • Weight changes: unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
  • Acne & skin issues: persistent acne, especially along the jawline and chin.
  • Excess hair growth: unwanted hair on face, chest, back or abdomen.
  • Thinning hair: hair loss or thinning, often from the scalp.
  • Darkened skin patches: velvety skin patches, linked to insulin resistance.
  • Mood swings & fatigue: mood fluctuations, irritability and fatigue.
  • Pelvic discomfort: pain or discomfort due to ovarian cysts.

It’s important to talk with a doctor about symptoms and how they relate to one’s overall health. The more information a woman has, the better equipped she is to make positive changes for herself and her body.

3. The disorder is linked to several other conditions

Polycystic ovary syndrome isn’t an isolated condition; it is linked to several other health issues including insulin resistance, diabetes, heart problems, depression, sleep apnea and more. Routine medical check-ups can help detect any changes or complications early on and allow for appropriate interventions.

4. Getting pregnant with PCOS is harder

PCOS is among the leading causes of infertility in women. Due to hormonal imbalances, women with the condition may experience irregular ovulation or no ovulation at all (anovulation). This makes it difficult to conceive naturally. PCOS can also increase the risk of certain complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth.

While it might seem daunting, managing risks and seeking treatment with the help of a doctor can lead to healthier outcomes. Many women with the disease go on to conceive successfully. Treatment can focus on removing or reducing symptoms or on reversing infertility due to the disorder with interventions such as ovulation induction, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI).

Related reading: Hope from Tragedy: Baby Kate, an Unmeasurable Gift from IVF after PCOS

5. Lifestyle changes to help manage the hormone disorder

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial for managing this hormone disorder, particularly when hoping to improve fertility. Regular exercise, a balanced diet and weight management can help regulate hormones and improve ovulation. A well-balanced diet that includes anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can be beneficial to mitigate higher risks of interconnected conditions.

These changes not only improve fertility prospects but also contribute to overall health.

6. PCOS can affect mental health and may call for support

This condition doesn’t just affect the body; it can also have a significant impact on mental health and emotional well-being. Dealing with the physical symptoms, hormonal imbalances and the challenges of managing PCOS can lead to stress, anxiety and even depression for some women.

Connecting with support groups, online communities or seeking professional help through therapy or counseling can provide emotional support and guidance in managing the impact on mental health.

Now that you know about polycystic ovary syndrome

When it comes to health, knowledge is the greatest ally. Stay informed, stay proactive and collaborate closely with a doctor to either get diagnosed or manage symptoms.

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