September is PCOS awareness month. Now I’m sure not many of you know what PCOS is or may have never heard of it, but I think it is extremely important that more awareness is raised around women's health conditions.
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and is a metabolic condition that causes an imbalance in a woman’s hormone levels which affects how a woman’s ovaries work. PCOS is a lifelong condition, affecting about 1 in 10 women of reproductive age and is one of the main causes of female infertility.
Many women think that if they have ovarian cysts, they must have PCOS which is actually not the case. PCOS results in a hormonal imbalance which doesn't often occur in women with ovarian cysts. Many women will develop ovarian cysts sometime in their lifetime, but usually they disappear naturally on their own after a few months without the need for medical attention.
Ovarian cysts are not enough to diagnose PCOS because some women with PCOS don’t actually have cysts, but they have other symptoms as mentioned below.
To diagnose PCOS, your doctor / gynaecologist will check that you have at least 2 of these 3 symptoms.
1. Irregular periods or absent periods due to a lack of ovulation
2. Excess androgen levels – higher levels of “male” hormones in the body
3. Multiple small cysts on the ovaries
Signs and symptoms of PCOS usually occur during a woman’s late teens or early 20s.
Irregular or absent periods
Difficulty getting pregnant
Excess hair growth which usually occurs on the face, chest and back
Weight gain – overweight and obesity
Anxiety and depression
Hair loss or thinning hair
Increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and endometrial cancer
I’m sure you are wondering what causes PCOS and how does one treat it?
Unfortunately, the exact causes are unknown, and it is a lifelong condition, meaning there is no cure for it. The best way to deal with PCOS is to manage the symptoms by living a healthy lifestyle and fortunately this is where a dietitian comes in.
The goal of a dietitian is to advise, guide and help women with PCOS on ways to make healthy lifestyle changes to decrease future health problems and help manage the symptoms experienced.
Dietitians are always keeping up to date with the latest scientific, evidence-based research to help our clients with certain conditions, such as PCOS.
Managing the symptoms can be done by following a healthy, balanced diet, including lower GI and high fibre foods, taking supplements and participating in regular physical activities to reach a healthy weight and lower the risk of other health conditions.
I hope this blog can raise more awareness on a women’s health issue that is close to my heart.
Remember that everyone is living with their own battles.