What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
You might know Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as PCOS. Although it might sound scary and complicated – and not just when you try to say it fast five times in a row – it’s actually quite common with 1 in 10 women in the UK having it.
PCOS affects how your ovaries work. They’re often larger than usual and contain tiny non-dangerous cysts, making it harder to release eggs. PCOS can show up in each person differently. Some people might not have any obvious symptoms at all, but PCOS will often affect your periods, fertility, appearance, and weight.
Ugh, why me?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Super unhelpful, sorry. But it DOES often run in families, so if your mum, nan, or cousin’s dog’s sister has PCOS then it’s probably sensible to keep an eye out for any symptoms.
We do know that PCOS is related to certain hormones wanting the spotlight a little too much and overproducing in your body, including insulin and the male hormone testosterone.
Hold on, are you saying PCOS will turn me into a boy?!
No. No, no, no. #No.
It’s true that a common symptom of PCOS is hair growth on your face, chest, back and bum, but that does not make you any less of a girl.
Everyone has testosterone in their body, whichever gender you are. We all just have different levels. Those who are born male have high levels of the stuff, but being female and having a lot of testosterone absolutely does not make you a boy.
Oh. Ok. So what other symptoms do I have to look out for?
Like we said, PCOS will affect people differently, but these are some common symptoms:
Hair growth (Hirsutism, if you want to sound fancy)
Loads of women sprout facial hair, it’s totally normal, but those with PCOS tend to experience it more obviously and excessively. DON’T PANIC. It might feel embarrassing but there are plenty of removal treatments out there if you want them.
Having PCOS will likely mean that you don’t ovulate as regularly as others so you might not have periods as regularly either. Some people don’t have periods at all. It might sound awesome – no cramps, no being caught without tampons or pads, no bloating... right? Well, hormones still might do their thing and pretend you’re having a period anyway, just without the blood. So don’t throw away your hot water bottle just yet.
Abnormal insulin levels in the body could mean you put on weight more easily. This might not be a problem at all, but it’s still something to be aware of. If you find you’re having to buy new jeans every six months and don’t understand why, you could blame your insulin. Bloody insulin.
Acne and oily skin
Thinning head hair
Yes, PCOS can make you grow hair where you really don’t want hair, and make your wanted hair fall out. Life is a bitch sometimes.
Tell me there’s a but?
There is! These symptoms of PCOS aren’t great and can be frustratingly noticeable, but remember that the severity of them will differ for everyone. Some people with polycystic ovaries won’t get the symptoms at all, and anyway, there are plenty of treatments out there to chill them out.
TL;DR? Here’s the important stuff:
- 1 in 5 women in the UK have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).Abnormal hormone levels can affect how your ovaries work.Symptoms can include irregular periods, facial hair, weight gain, and acne.PCOS isn’t curable but there are many treatments to control the symptoms.
So PCOS is treatable?
Yep! PCOS can’t be cured but it can certainly be managed to help you feel in control.
Diet and exercise
Adapting your diet and exercise routines can level out your weight gain, help your skin, and keep you feeling energetic and healthy. Figuring out the best lifestyle changes should always be done with your GP though. Don’t just ask Google.
Medication and creams
If you have irregular periods, the contraceptive pill could help whip them into shape. The Pill could also help with weight control and acne – triple whammy. You can also get medication and creams which help suppress testosterone, to control any unruly hair probs.
Later down the line, PCOS sufferers might be able to have a minor procedure to help with any fertility problems. You don’t have to think about this now, but it might soothe you if you’re panicking about a lack of sprogs in your future.
Right… what do I do now?
If you think you might have PCOS, get an appointment to see your GP. If you can’t do this alone, or don’t want to, then have a chat with a nice adult in your life first. As having PCOS is likely genetic, it could be good to grab your mum, auntie, nan, etc, for support… and then poke them in the eyes for giving it to you. (No. don’t do that.)
PCOS might sound complex and horrible, but it’s a really common condition. If you have it, you’re not dealing with it alone and can live a totally happy and normal life with the best treatment for you.
Repeat after us: I am a strong woman and bloody awesome. Did you repeat it? Good.