While not often discussed, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is a very common condition that affects as many as 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years.
PCOS is a condition that revolves around certain hormones being out of balance in the female body. This often equates to an excess of androgen-related hormone levels and potentially lower-than-normal levels of estrogen.
Due to these hormonal imbalances, the ovaries may also develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs.
These hormonal imbalances can lead to a wide range of symptoms such as:
- A higher level of androgens (a type of hormone that includes testosterone)
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Periods that are either very heavy or very light
- Insulin resistance, which leads to pre-diabetes
- Small clusters of cysts in the ovaries (different from the kind of ovarian cysts that grow, rupture, and cause pain)
- Fertility challenges (difficulty getting pregnant)
- Increase of hormonal acne on the face and body
- Excess facial and body hair
- Hair thinning
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and weight loss challenges
- And more
What causes PCOS?
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Healthcare professionals along with researchers have deduced that genetic and environmental factors both contribute to the development of PCOS, but still are unsure of the exact reason why it manifests in so many women.
However, if your mother or sisters have PCOS it’s likely you may as well. Those who also struggle with obesity may be candidates for PCOS as well.
The Relationship between Diabetes & PCOS
While we don’t quite understand the exact cause of PCOS, we do know that many with PCOS suffer from inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which are not to be taken lightly. Not everyone with PCOS is insulin resistant, but for those that are, it’s important to make diet and lifestyle changes since many with PCOS are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In fact, more than half of individuals with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by age 40. If you’re concerned you may be at risk for type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor and schedule to review lab work for your blood sugar, hormones, and anything else the doctor feels would be important to your treatment plan.
The Relationship between PCOS & Mental Health
People with PCOS are about 3 times more likely to experience depression and anxiety than people without PCOS.
While the exact correlation for this is unknown, it is not uncommon to see people with chronic health and pain issues also suffering from mental health complications such as anxiety, depression, or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). When battling complex health problems that have no cure, only management solutions, people can feel alone, discouraged, or even hopeless at times during their journey to finding a solution that works best for them.
If you are feeling anxious, hopeless, or just looking for support, it is important to reach out to your family and health provider for help.
If you are feeling suicidal, please call the suicide hotline immediately—you are not alone.
For additional support, Shades of Teal is a monthly membership for patients and health providers to access a community with resources to help manage and raise awareness of PCOS.
PCOS is a unique experience for all, but the first step in understanding this complex condition is to start talking about it.
Self-compassion enables you to start on the right path in your PCOS wellness journey.
Our team at GeniusRx is no stranger to common conditions like PCOS. Hear a story from one our very own, on how she manages her PCOS to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle.
“After 4+ months of visiting multiple specialists and doing a number of tests, I learned I had PCOS. By no means was this the worst diagnosis I could have received, but it sent me on a new path for my health.
There are two sides to PCOS for many women like me:
- Side one: The struggles of trying to be a mother.
- Side two: The struggles of just being an average woman in society.
I am fortunate to have two daughters due to the aid of months and months of fertility treatments, taking medications like Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid), careful dieting, supplements, and a lot of patience.
After having my daughters, I quickly fell into the second side of the PCOS coin; the daily woes caused by significant hormonal imbalances. Weight gain, hair growth/loss, cysts, unreliable cycles, high blood sugar, constant hormone fluctuations, etc.
Over the years, I’ve learned to manage it through low glycemic diets (like paleo or keto) and the right medications (Metformin HCL and Spironolactone) along with frequent visits to a medical practice that specializes in the condition.
I am now 12 years living with PCOS and it does not control me! Life with PCOS doesn’t have to be painful with the right guidance from physicians/pharmacists/nutritionists, along with the right medications and diets to manage your every day.”
PCOS Treatment & Management: What you can do about it?
While PCOS is a chronic condition, there are many lifestyle adjustments and medication options that can provide relief and prevent future complications.
Before we dive into our recommendation, as with everything, we highly recommend you discuss your condition, symptoms and potential treatment plan with a physician that specializes in PCOS or other reproductive conditions.
Embrace Lifestyle Changes
- Diet Changes — A diet low in sugar and carbohydrates, like Keto, and for some dairy-free like Paleo or other low glycemic diets
- Getting Physical — Exercise, such as yoga and light cardio (walking, jogging, dancing) several times a week.
- Physical Therapy — Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy to help with inflammation.
- Talk to Someone — Whether it’s finding a physician that listens to your needs or a therapist who can support you on your journey, embrace talking to a healthcare professional on the best way to handle your unique symptoms.
Find The Right Medications
Keep in mind, there is no one pill (or cream or patch!) that fits all for PCOS sufferers. Make sure to talk to your physician and pharmacists about the best treatment options for your unique symptoms. Below we’ve highlighted only a handful of medications that many women use who battle daily with PCOS symptoms.
- Birth control—talk to your OB/GYN to determine the best pill option for you. Some options are Norgestimate-ethinyl estradiol, Tri Femyor, or Afirmelle to name just a few.
- Diabetes Prevention—Metformin HCL is a drug that helps regulate blood sugar in some forms of PCOS.
- Ovulation Needs — For those trying to conceive and having complications with consistent ovulation periods, many have found success using Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid).
- Hair Growth & Loss —Spironolactone is traditionally prescribed for heart conditions however it is often prescribed to those with PCOS due to its ability to block the effects of androgen. This helps manage common symptoms like scalp hair loss and can decrease excessive facial and unwanted body hair. Be in mind, Spironolactone is a diuretic. Vaniqa is also an option as a topical cream that can be applied to the affected skin areas to help reduce unwanted hair growth.
GeniusRx is here to help make you feel comfortable, understood, and confident in your wellness journey.
If you think you may have PCOS, it is important to talk to your doctor about proper diagnosis and medication options. We’re here to help you get up to 80% off your prescription prices.