Wednesday, March 31, 2010

a pcos primer

Hello all! I can't believe I didn't blog yesterday. Are you ok? Did you freak out? I hope you made it through ok without my wise words of wiseness.

I thought for this entry I'd clue you in to the "basics" of PCOS and what it all means. So... here we go! (My comments are in GREEN.)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common female endocrine disorder, (woo hoo! It's common! Somehow, strangely, this does not make me feel better.) affecting approximately 5%-10% of all females. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that involves multiple organ systems within the body, and is believed to be fundamentally caused by insensitivity to the hormone insulin. However, it is not well understood enough to know for sure that this is the cause. It can be diagnosed in all phases of life - in girls as young as 8-9 years of age, up through post-menopause. Although PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility, the reproductive aspects of the disorder are secondary. PCOS is not limited to women of reproductive age or potential.

Common symptoms of PCOS include (aka- the sexiest symptoms EVAH!):

• irregular or no menstrual periods (for women of reproductive age)
• irregular ovulation, with or without monthly bleeding
• acne
• excess hair growth on the face and body
• thinning scalp hair
• accumulation of unruptured follicles on the periphery of the ovaries (mislabeled as "cysts", often called polycystic ovaries)

It is not necessary to have all of these symptoms to have PCOS. In fact it is not necessary to have "polycystic ovaries" to have PCOS. PCOS manifests itself differently in each woman.

In addition to the above, approximately 60% of women with PCOS have weight management issues (stupid weight management issues. I spit on you. No fair.) which can lead to obesity with only normal caloric intake. (ok, this is the way sucky thing. I can watch my food intake like a HAWK- eating like 1200-1400 calories, and my weight won't budge.) Energy in the form of glucose (food) is stored right away as fat, instead of being made available for other functions within the body. This can lead to chronic fatigue and undernourishment, despite the fact that there is adequate food intake and even an appearance of over nourishment. (ha ha. over nourishment. That's a nice way to say "chubby".) However, it's important to note that 40% of women with PCOS are of normal weight, or even fall under a normal weight range. (I guess I'm one of the lucky 60% who have to battle with this.)

There is no cure for PCOS, but it can be successfully managed through diet, exercise, and in some cases medical intervention. Management of PCOS is essential, as unmanaged PCOS can progress to diabetes, and can also lead to certain forms of cancer if unaddressed. Proper management of PCOS often eliminates all symptoms. Some women with managed PCOS are among the healthiest within the population because of their lifestyle choices. (this is what I really want! And once I get there, I'll walk around going "I'm probably healthier than you! HA!)

PCOS has also been called Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, historically. The name "polycystic ovarian syndrome" or "polycystic ovary syndrome" is a poor descriptor of the condition, however attempts to arrive at a consensus on renaming the condition have failed so far.

Myths about PCOS:

Women with PCOS cannot have children. FALSE
Women who have had children cannot have PCOS. FALSE
Hysterectomy cures PCOS. FALSE
A woman must have polycystic ovaries to be diagnosed with PCOS. FALSE
A woman who has polycystic ovaries definitely has PCOS. FALSE
Birth control pills cure PCOS. FALSE
If a woman doesn't want to have children (or more children), she I doesn't have to worry about PCOS management. FALSE
If a woman passes a glucose tolerance test, she doesn't have insulin resistance or PCOS. FALSE

Women with PCOS also have higher rates of:

•Gestational diabetes
•Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure (preeclampsia)
•Premature delivery


So, there you go! A very BASIC primer, but a little info for you. Also, this is a picture of an ultrasound of a polycystic ovary. It looks almost identical to the ultrasound I got in November. All the little black round dots are follicles that never ruptured.

Anyway, I keep reading different books/articles to see if I can learn more, but this is usually about as in depth as it gets. I hope it was at least mildly interesting for you! :)



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