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PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and this disease affects nearly 5 million women of childbearing age.  It’s really surprising that this condition isn’t as publicized in women’s health as some of the others.  Some women get PCOS because their ovaries may develop one or more cysts and fail to produce progesterone.  The result is anovulation, which means no egg is being released from the ovaries. The absence of progesterone may cause a woman’s periods to be very irregular or even absent.  It is important to note that the ovaries also produce typical male hormones, such as testosterone, that can cause anovulation and male patterned hair growth.  Here are a few indicators of PCOS:

  • Skipped or very irregular menstrual periods
  • Increased weight gain,  in spite of dietary and exercise changes
  • Hirsutism, or excessive hair growth in places where it is usually absent or minimal on women (think unwanted chest hair, beards, and mustaches)
  • Insulin resistance or Diabetes
  • Infertility or trouble getting pregnant
  • Acne
  • Patches of skin that are thicker and darker than normal

If you are concerned, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss what is going on with you.  For diagnosis, be prepared to discuss your symptoms, past medical history, have a physical exam, which may include a pelvic exam sans a Pap smear, have lab work drawn (to check glucose and testosterone levels), and maybe even an ultrasound.

If you are diagnosed with PCOS, it is not the end of the world.  There are a number of treatment options for you.  Your practitioner may prescribe birth control pills, Metformin, medicines to eliminate unwanted  hair growth, and fertility drugs if you desire pregnancy at the time.  You will also need to place yourself on a low glycemic index diet and exercise regimen to reach a healthy weight, and quit smoking (if applicable) to avoid complications.

Take the first step in taking charge of your health and visit your healthcare provider.

Remember to keep a healthy demeanor, both inside and out.