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It’s Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month - What You Need to Know

A blog by Jessi Wallace, September 8, 2016

September is PCOS Awareness Month, and women everywhere are speaking out and sharing their experience with PCOS on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and in support groups. Spreading awareness is important because PCOS is something that is relatively misunderstood in the medical field. From what causes it, to why some women have symptoms that others don’t... it’s a disease that strikes 1 in 10 women, and sometimes they have no genetic tie to it (like myself), while many women do. With it being PCOS Awareness Month, I’ve come to realize that there is a lot that we don’t know about PCOS. However, there is one important thing that we do know and it’s very important for doctors to understand: PCOS does not look the same for everyone.

Not everyone with PCOS is overweight. While there is a textbook definition for what PCOS looks like, I have yet to meet two women who carry it the same. Many associate PCOS automatically with being overweight, but that’s not the case for every woman. While there are many women who struggle with their weight as a result of PCOS, there are many others who appear slender, but have ovaries in worse condition than you’d think. With PCOS, one size does not fit all. A big mistake a doctor can make (resulting in misdiagnosis) is assuming that you don’t have PCOS because you’re not overweight. My first medical experience with PCOS included intense pain for months and several missed periods, but my doctor at the time dismissed the thought that it could be PCOS solely based on the fact that I was slender. She literally said, “You don’t look like someone who has PCOS, so I don’t think it’s the cause of your problems.” She also refused to do an ultrasound because “it wouldn’t matter.” It wasn’t until I switched doctors and got an ultrasound that I was officially diagnosed and handled properly.

Not everyone with PCOS has high blood sugar. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which results in higher than normal blood sugar levels, later resulting in a prescription for Metformin. Quite frequently, it’s automatically assumed that women with PCOS will need Metformin to function, but this is not always the case. Some women, like myself, are actually hypoglycemic. Whether or not it’s attributed to PCOS is another story, but my blood sugar runs on the lower side of the spectrum and Metformin is actually harmful for me.

Not everyone with PCOS has high testosterone. It’s common for many with PCOS to suffer from high testosterone, resulting in excess hair growth on the face and other areas of the body. However, some women with PCOS have perfectly normal testosterone levels and instead suffer with estrogen dominance (me). For me, instead of excess hair, I lose a lot of it, sometimes in clumps.

Not everyone with PCOS has cysts. This one threw me for a loop when I first found out about it. How can someone be diagnosed as polyCYSTic if they don’t even have cysts? There are many symptoms that correlate with PCOS and lead to the diagnosis, and just like the other symptoms mentioned, not every woman has cysts to go along with the diagnosis. While I personally don’t fit into the overweight and high blood sugar/testosterone categories I mentioned above, I do have the classic strand of pearls on both ovaries and the pain to go along with it as the follicles rupture throughout the month. However, I have met women who have most of the other textbook symptoms with no cysts.

PCOS does not have a cure, but can be managed. Some women opt for long-term use of birth control pills to manage their symptoms. Most of the time, PCOS symptoms can be managed by healthy diet and exercise, along with the right vitamins and supplements, and regular communication with a healthcare professional as symptoms change. Sometimes infertility can even be reversed and pregnancy achieved without ovulation-inducing medication. While PCOS does not have a cure or a one-size-fits-all, sometimes we can manage our symptoms with lifestyle changes, and as a result experience a more abundant life.

PCOS does not look the same for every woman. It also does not define who we are. If you are struggling with symptoms of PCOS, talk to your doctor, or visit a chiropractor or nutritionist for lifestyle changes. PCOS may not have a cure, but we can take charge and control it. There’s no better time than the present. Make PCOS Awareness Month count – make a change today.

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Comments (2)

P.S. That follicle ultrasound image is mine! That is what 25mm and 27mm follicles look like on the same ovary.

Thanks for sharing Jessi!! I didn't know about a few of these facts xoxo So glad you advocate for those with PCOS!

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