PCOS - we hear it spoken about, but what is it?

Published: 26/05/2023

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and who does it impact?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common disorder affecting women of reproductive age and is defined as a hormonal imbalance that affects the way the ovaries work.

It is characterised by various symptoms and can have significant implications for a woman's reproductive health, and overall wellbeing. This article will provide an overview of PCOS, its symptoms, causes, and available treatment options. 

Understanding PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a complex condition that involves hormonal imbalances and affects the ovaries, the female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs and hormones. Women with PCOS typically have enlarged ovaries containing small cysts, which are fluid-filled sacs.

The exact cause of PCOS is unclear, but it is known to be very common, with 1 in 10 women in the UK estimated to suffer from it. Women of all races and ethnicities are at risk of PCOS. 

Beyond its impact on reproductive health, PCOS has been linked with other health issues including diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, depression and anxiety, endometrial cancer and obesity.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Symptoms of PCOS typically present themselves around the age of 20-30 years old and it's important to remember they can vary from woman to woman. 

Common signs include:

  • Irregular ovulation (menstrual cycles do not happen in regular cycles) 
  • Excess hair growth (caused by higher than normal levels of the male hormone testosterone) 
  • Acne 
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty with getting pregnant (due to infrequent ovulation) 

These symptoms are all stress and anxiety-inducing, so there is a huge need for women experiencing this to feel supported throughout. The increase in discussion around the topic, and openness with people discussing their experience with PCOS will really help a lot of women feel less alone when going through the challenges brought on by PCOS. 

If you have access to myTamarin fertility support, please get in touch with one of our experts to see how they can support you, or a colleague/family member who may be struggling. 

What treatment is available for PCOS?

Whilst there is no cure for PCOS, there are various treatment options for managing symptoms and improving overall health. The treatment plan can be tailored to an individual's needs and may involve lifestyle changes, medication, or a combination of the two.

Lifestyle changes include adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity. Medications may be prescribed to address specific symptoms such as irregular periods, excessive hair growth, or acne. Hormonal birth control pills, anti-androgen medications, and insulin-sensitising drugs are commonly prescribed to help with this. 

In cases where fertility is a concern, if you are trying to conceive and fertility medications do not work in causing follicular growth a surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling may be recommended.  Laparoscopic drilling is a procedure that uses a laser to destroy some of the tissue in the ovaries that are producing excess unwanted hormones such as testosterone. In vitro fertilization (IVF) may also be recommended for those struggling with conceiving.

Women with diagnosed PCOS are advised to go for regular check-ups to monitor hormone imbalance, manage long-term health risks, and address any concerns. 

Experts at myTamarin can work with you and create the best-suited treatment specific to your symptoms. There, unfortunately, is not a "one size fits all" approach to managing symptoms, so testing out different treatments and getting expert guidance until the right solution is found is the best option. 

How can I support someone with PCOS?

When it comes to supporting a friend/family member/colleague through PCOS the main thing to do is to be supportive and understanding throughout. Educate yourself around the topic (myTamarin can help you), and make sure they are signposted to the right experts for help. 

For someone with PCOS,  recognising the symptoms, understanding the underlying causes, and exploring appropriate treatment options are vital steps toward managing PCOS and improving overall wellbeing. Early diagnosis and proactive management can make a significant difference in mitigating the potential complications associated with PCOS.

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