As September is PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) Awareness Month, The Diva Team thought to share some insight on PCOS with some help from 1in10:
1. What is PCOS?
Although those who have heard of PCOS usually think of it as a reproductive disorder, PCOS is not a menstrual or reproductive disorder.
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is an Endocrine and Metabolic Disorder affecting at least 1 out of every 10 women worldwide. PCOS is now recognized as the most common endocrine disorder in women. It has been labeled as both a “silent killer” and “the perfect hormonal storm”. While it is important to understand that there is no cure for PCOS, it is just as important to realize that the symptoms of PCOS can be managed with proper treatment.
PCOS causes a wide variety of symptoms that have the ability to be truly devastating to a woman’s health and well-being. PCOS can be diagnosed in all phases of life – it is not a disorder solely affecting women of childbearing years. In the United States alone, over 8 million women of all ages have received a PCOS diagnosis – PCOS is not limited to women of reproductive age or potential.
Because the symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman in their display and severity, and because not all women with PCOS have ovarian cysts, organized medicine has considered re-naming the disorder.
Common symptoms of PCOS include, but are not limited to: weight fluctuations, acne, hirsutism (excess body hair), skin tags (Acrochordon), absent or infrequent menstrual periods, hair loss at the scalp (Androgenic alopecia), dark skin patches (Acanthosis nigricans), depression and/or anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, ovarian cysts, and difficulty conceiving a child.
2. How does PCOS affect the menstrual cycle?
Because the majority of the outward symptoms of PCOS affect the hair and skin, most women have trouble connecting those symptoms to an Endocrine (hormonal) disorder and fail to seek help. Most women receive a PCOS diagnosis after their cycle either becomes extremely irregular (less than 4 periods a year) or stops all together – or if they have trouble conceiving a child, but they may have been living with PCOS for years without knowing it.
Our hormones impact every process that goes on inside of our bodies – and our bodies have pretty specific “optimal” ranges for each hormone. When one or more hormones deviate from that range (either lower or higher), as is the case with PCOS, the body recognizes this and fails to operate the way it should.
Take insulin, for example. Insulin is such an important hormone that the levels of insulin in your body can affect multiple processes. When insulin doesn’t (or can’t) do its job, it sets off a series of events in the body that impacts not only your blood sugar levels, but your weight, the condition of your skin, your hair cycle, your menstrual cycle – and more!
Failure to receive a diagnosis, and therefore failure to treat, PCOS can have a devastating effect on a woman’s health. PCOS has been linked to several serious health conditions, including (but not limited to): Thyroid Disease, Autoimmune Diseases, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Endometrial Hyperplasia, NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease), Chronic Kidney Disease, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Stroke, Heart Attack, Gestational Diabetes, Preeclampsia, Infertility & Cancer (Endometrial, Ovarian, Uterine & Breast).
3. What support is there for women experiencing PCOS?
If you are suffering from PCOS, it’s important to know that you are not alone and that there is support available to you!
1in10 provides online support via myPCOS – a private, members-only social network for women with PCOS, webinars, outreach programs, PCOS Awareness Month events, and free educational literature and tool kits available for downloading and printing on our website.
4. Can you share a bit about 1 in 10?
1in10 is a grassroots non-profit organization for women with PCOS, founded and run by women with PCOS, grounded in 3 core principles – education, empowerment and hope. We firmly believe that educating women about their bodies will empower them to take control of their health, and give them hope for the future.
5. What can the Diva Community to do help draw awareness?
While September has been recognized as PCOS Awareness Month, 1in10 feels that it is vital to raise awareness year-round. After all, PCOS is a disorder that impacts the entire body. It is important that women get the facts about PCOS, understand how it can affect them throughout their entire life, and also how it may impact the lives of their children and family members.
By promoting healthy lifestyle choices, encouraging women to be educated about how their bodies work, and staying on top of the latest medical research we believe that all women will be empowered to become their own best health advocates.
6. In addition to medical care, what alternative treatments are available for women?
The most important thing a woman can do to help manage her PCOS is to make healthy lifestyle changes. Hormone levels can be positively (or negatively) impacted by nutrition and exercise, so it is important to move your body and give it the fuel it needs to run properly. By being conscientious of the food you eat (particularly carbohydrates) and making sure you exercise, you can help to minimize your PCOS symptoms and get your hormones back on track.
For women who are seeking PCOS treatment outside of traditional medicine, we recommend that you research all forms of alternative treatments available to you before undertaking any of them. There are hundreds of herbs and supplements on the market for reproductive health and/or infertility, but not all of them will truly help women with PCOS. Remember – PCOS is both a metabolic and endocrine disorder, so it is important to really research the ingredients in a supplement to find out exactly how it may impact your hormones.
Aside from supplements, acupuncture can be a great mechanism for relaxation and reducing the stress of PCOS. In times of stress, our bodies increase production of the hormone cortisol. Increased levels of cortisol impact your blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate, immune response and digestive processes – which can all affect your PCOS symptoms.
No matter how you choose to treat your PCOS, the important thing to remember is that it does need to be treated! Depending on your hormone levels (as detected and evaluated by blood work) and symptoms, you may have success with diet and exercise alone, with safe supplements, or you may need prescription drugs. Remember to talk to your team of health professionals before beginning any diet or exercise program, and before taking any new supplement – and remember to always evaluate your progress by your blood work.
1in10 is a grassroots non-profit organization founded in 2011 by a group of women with PCOS who are determined to make a positive impact on the lives of women just like us.
What sets 1in10 apart from other PCOS organizations is our commitment to education based on medical research and scientific evidence. We believe that support without education is what has been missing from the PCOS community, and we are on a mission to change that! As an organization, and as women with PCOS, we have adopted 3 core principals – education, empowerment and hope.
Our Mission: 1in10 empowers women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome by providing knowledge, resources and support. It is our goal to promote public awareness of PCOS by providing current and medically approved information. We encourage those suffering, and those who know someone suffering, from PCOS to unite and join together as a Cysterhood.