It Affects Nearly 5 Million Women in the US.
PCOS. What the heck is it? How do you get it? What are the challenges associated with it? Is it a terminal thing? What does it stand for? I’ve never heard of it, why? The list of questions goes on and on – trust me, about a zillion questions whizzed through my brain at rapid fire when I first heard the doctor utter those words as I sat there pulling the medical “robe” tighter across my freezing body wearing nothing but a pair of socks. It’s not something anyone expects to hear; it’s not an STD but rather a hormonal issue that affects somewhere around 1 in 15 women across the US, according to US Department of Health and Human Services on Women’s Health.
I always knew something was “abnormal” with my body, but the physicians I had previously seen couldn’t find anything, so I stopped asking questions because I made myself believe my “normal” was just a bit different than everyone else’s. When I moved to New York City and found a new doctor he discovered what I thought was a death sentence – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. He offered no comforting advice, just a pamphlet and a picture of my oh-so-pretty string of pearls. Thanks to a co-worker, who I found out had been living with PCOS for years, I was able to talk to someone who was also struggling and that alone provided reassurance I could not get anywhere else!
Disclaimer: The following contains facts and figures obtained from the website of the US Department of Health and Human Services on Women’s Health as well as knowledge I have gained over the course of the past year or so in dealing with how to navigate life with PCOS. I am NOT a doctor so please do not take this as medical advice or as a diagnosis. Please consult your own physician should you feel PCOS may affect you personally. If you have any questions relevant to coping with or living a healthy lifestyle while affected by PCOS, feel free to ask!
So what is PCOS? It’s a health condition that affects women’s androgen level production (a male hormone that females also produce, but in much smaller quantities). Women who are affected by PCOS produce excess androgen hormones which in turn create missed periods, fertility issues, difficulty with weight, potential insulin resistance problems, and/or as the name would suggest small cysts on the ovaries among other things. As mentioned above, I have what is known as “string of pearls” which is literally a chain of small cysts that dot the circumference of your ovary, hence the name string of pearls because that is exactly what it looks like. Cool, huh? No, not really but at least it takes away the typical stark reality of medical related issues. The syndrome is a hormonal imbalance that can cause many issues to arise; however, there is no direct treatment for PCOS. Because there are a variety of symptoms that can easily point to other health issues, PCOS is difficult to diagnose.
So I mentioned there is no treatment, right? Well, there is no cure for PCOS but it can be “managed.” Depending on your symptoms (not every person affected by PCOS has the same symptoms…another reason it is hard to detect), you can manage the condition with contraceptives, diabetes medication and a lifestyle modification. Exercise and eating right can help tremendously! I cannot stress that enough – it is very simple to put on the weight, but for a woman with PCOS it is much more difficult to get the weight to come off. Even the slightest bit of weight can have a tremendous impact on not only your appearance but your health, your confidence and the symptoms associated with PCOS.
That is A LOT of information to digest so I’ll leave it right there…for now. Be on the lookout for how I manage my lifestyle. Hint: it’s lots of organics (I don’t need any extra hormones raging through my body), healthy eating, portion control (self restraint is so hard), daily exercise, and a trusty book that I keep close by for reference. What works for me doesn’t work for everyone and I have been struggling for quite some time to find a balance but so far I think I’ve discovered a pretty decent system.