Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a misnomer for many women, as you don’t need cysts on your ovaries to be diagnosed with this syndrome. Ovarian cysts are only one symptom of PCOS.
What all women with PCOS have in common is high levels of androgens, a type of sex hormone, or hypersensitivity to normal levels of androgens. Another marker of PCOS is insulin resistance. Some scientists believe that by increasing insulin sensitivity, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland stop overproducing androgens.
Fortunately, PCOS isn’t life-threatening, but it can lead to some serious complications if it's left untreated for prolonged periods. If you’re suffering from PCOS or suspect that you have it, read on.
PCOS symptoms and diagnosis
PCOS is a complex syndrome that doesn't always cause the same symptoms in everyone. To determine whether you have PCOS, most specialists use the Rotterdam criteria, a diagnosis based on symptoms.
Women with PCOS must have at least one of the following symptoms:
- Clinical signs of elevated testosterone (acne, hirsutism, oily skin, oily hair, hair loss, deepening of the voice, increased muscle mass, or weight gain)
- Irregular or missing periods, very light menstruation, or difficulty conceiving
- Cysts on the ovaries
The effects of certain birth control pills, obesity, thyroid disease, or congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) can also mimic PCOS symptoms. Although there’s no test to confirm a diagnosis of PCOS, your doctor diagnoses partly by ruling out other conditions.
Understanding the dangers of untreated PCOS
Although both men and women produce testosterone, in women, even a small increase in this hormone has a negative impact that goes beyond cosmetic concerns such as acne and hair loss. Though these changes to your appearance can impact your quality of life, the dangers of untreated PCOS are more serious.
If you leave PCOS untreated, the syndrome’s symptoms will not only worsen, but you may put yourself at greater risk of developing serious conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and endometrial cancer. PCOS itself is not life-threatening, but it can lead to life-threatening complications. Thankfully, this can be prevented by taking steps to manage the condition.
Getting treatment for PCOS
PCOS isn’t curable, but it can go into remission. Depending on your symptoms and lifestyle, there are several ways you can tackle the syndrome, including the following:
- Dietary interventions to increase insulin sensitivity
- Medication to control blood sugar levels
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Testosterone blockers
The team at Ovation Wellness understands how difficult it can be to find out you’re suffering from an incurable syndrome. However, we want to assure you that you can live well and even forget it’s there once it’s put into remission. Contact us to schedule an appointment and find out how you can manage your PCOS to avoid long-term complications.