As reported by the Hormone Foundation, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder among women of childbearing age. There are approximately 5 to 7 million women who suffer with this ailment in the U. S. alone.
The term polycystic is defined as “many cysts.” With PCOS, patients have many clusters of pearl-sized cysts inside the ovaries. Each cyst is fluid-filled and contains eggs that won’t be released due to the hormonal imbalance. To be clear, most women have a few cysts in the ovaries, but not to the degree as with PCOS.
The accumulation of these cysts even changes the size and appearance of the ovaries. The complications begin when this syndrome starts to affect other body symptoms. Women with PCOS have an increased risk for diabetes or being insulin resistant. Then there is the likelihood of heart and blood vessel diseases which may include high blood pressure. Additionally, due to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) not being discharged regularly as it should, it tends to become very thick. This may be a precursor to certain kinds of cancer. Finally, there is the sleep disorder, sleep apnea, which causes breathing irregularities, snoring and persistent interrupted sleep. In extreme cases, this sleep disorder can be life threatening.
Do You Have PCOS?
So you suspect you have PCOS, huh? Well, it’s always better to be safe than sorry so make an appointment with your physician to be sure. Remember, PCOS symptoms are different for every individual – you might suffer with what others do not. But if you have 2 or more of the following symptoms, you do well to check into it.
Irregular or absent menstrual periods – this can mean fewer than 9 a year for some, according to the Hormone Foundation. Even though periods may be fewer, bleeding; however, can be very heavy.
Infertility – PCOS does not allow the body to release eggs, therefore; women cannot conceive.
Excess body/facial hair
Thinning hair on scalp
Weight problems – weight gain in the midsection (when the waist measures over 35 inches) is of particular concern since this brings on other metabolic problems such as diabetes.
Skin problems – including acne (on face, back and neck), skin tags (small benign growths which hang from body areas) located in armpit or neck, or darkening and thickening of skin (acanthosis nigricans) around groin, neck, underarms and/or skin folds.
In a follow-up article, PCOS treatment options and lifestyle tips will be discussed.
Resource: The Hormone Foundation, Mayo Clinic
Dita Faulkner is a southern freelance writer that currently works for the State of Tennessee assisting families at risk.
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