Are you having regular periods? When was the last time you checked the calendar? Daily life has a tendency to overtake our calendars and it’s easy to overlook your own health.
Because of this, it might take time for you to realise that something has changed in regards to your periods. Whether they’re shorter or longer, there might be a reason for this change. Dr Abirami Thevakumar from Specialist Clinics of Australia in Sydney explains that there is a variety of causes for irregular periods and one of them is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
How does polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affect my health?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) a common endocrine system disorder in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. Some of the most common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular Periods
One of the most common symptoms of PCOS is that your menstrual cycle may become irregular, and you will notice the time between periods is longer or shorter than your regular pattern.
- Hormone imbalances
Usually, women with PCOS develop numerous small cysts on their ovaries (this is also where the disorder takes its name from: polycystic). These cysts are benign (non-cancerous) but they do lead to hormone imbalances. The good thing is that, if diagnosed early, PCOS symptoms can be treated, preventing long-term problems.
- Excess facial hair & acne
The most common symptoms of PCOS can cause unwanted changes in your looks, such as excess facial hair or acne. “Some women can also experience difficulty in losing weight,” says Dr Thevakumar.
- Thinning of hair
Dr Thevakumar explains that aside from the growth of unwanted facial hair, you may also be experiencing thinning of the hair on your head.
- Difficulties in getting pregnant
The disorder is common among women of reproductive age and because it interferes with your menstrual cycle, it can make it difficult for you to become pregnant.
What causes PCOS to develop in women?
“We’re not exactly sure of the causes for PCOS, whether it has got to do with hormonal and inherent hormonal imbalance or whether it has got to do with insulin resistance,” Dr Thevakumar points out.
“We do find that there is an association with insulin resistance and hence women who have PCOS often develop diabetes later in life. This can happen both in women who are slim and in women with a higher BMI who are struggling to lose weight.”
The symptoms linked to PCOS usually appear over a longer period of time. As the symptoms often don’t appear suddenly, many women are not aware that they are linked, therefore may not initially be concerned that there is an issue that should be investigated by a gynaecologist. .
What happens after diagnosis?
In order to get a PCOS diagnosis, a physical examination is required:
- The doctor with look for patterns such as hair distribution, whether there is a thinning of skull hair.
- This is followed by blood tests and pelvic ultrasound scan.
“In the blood test, we are looking at different hormones and the pelvic ultrasound scan is used to exam whether a woman has cysts on her ovaries,” Dr Thevakumar explains.
If you are diagnosed with PCOS, the treatment can be very straightforward or it can be fairly challenging. This depends entirely on your symptoms, how early the condition is diagnosed and how your body reacts to PCOS.
There is no cure for PCOS as such… but there are treatments
There is no cure for PCOS, however, treating the symptoms has a great success rate. Dr Thevakumar explains that if the problem is excess facial hair then there are a variety of tablets, medical and laser treatments, or creams that one can use. “When treating irregular periods,” she adds, “then there is a variety of treatments for that too, like tablets or weight loss. It all depends on your symptoms”.
With PCOS, acting fast is the key.
Especially since it is a disorder where the symptoms may at first appear as nothing serious to be concerned about. As with every health issue, leaving PCOS unchecked can lead to severe health problems in the future. However, research has shown that early detection of PCOS and immediate treatment of the disorder can eradicate all the future complications that the order can bestow on you.