P.ressures of society C.ourage of the women who face this O.vercoming the challenges ahead S.uccess of living day by day fighting against the PCOS odds
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome also known as PCOS is a common hormonal imbalance that affects 1 in 5 of women in the UK. Many people do not know anything about PCOS, which is startling considering how many of us it affects. PCOS is a prevalent condition found in 6-10% of the female population in developed countries. There are often many misconceptions about PCOS, and there is sometimes not enough help given when it comes to managing and treating the symptoms. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is also known by the name Stein-Leventhal syndrome, it is a common condition characterised by menstrual irregularities and symptoms or laboratory evidence of excess levels of androgen also known as hyperandrogenism. Many women’s PCOS can and will be detected on an ultrasound scan. PCOS is also associated with an increased risk of developing endometrial or ovarian cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. This condition can occur at any age, and is found in childhood, during puberty, in adolescence, adulthood and in the elderly. PCOS was first described in 1935 as a collection of commonly occurring signs and symptoms. Since then, the diagnosis criteria has changed which is why so many women go undiagnosed. Being diagnosed usually comes with the misconception that PCOS is just a singular condition when in reality it is made up of a number of different factors. Most recently, the Rotterdam Consensus Conference agreed that PCOS may be diagnosed where any two of the following conditions are present within a woman.
Hirsutism Hirsutism is the excessive growth of facial or body hair on women. Hirsutism can be seen as coarse, dark hair that may appear on treat the face, chest, abdomen, back, upper arms, or upper legs. Hirsutism is a symptom of medical disorders associated with the hormones called androgens. The ovaries produce excessive amounts of androgens and may affect up to 10% of women. Hirsutism is very common, and the medical community can offer drugs to manage it but they don’t the underlying cause.
Weight & Obesity Obesity which can fluctuate constantly or simply be hard to shed Insulin resistance is a common finding in PCOS that is independent of obesity. The link between PCOS and obesity is complicated. Signs and symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome begin for some females soon after they start having periods. Women with PCOS produce too much insulin, or the insulin they produce does not work the way that it is supposed to. The inability of insulin to function normally is one reason why women with PCOS tend to gain weight or have a hard time losing weight. For others, PCOS develops later on, following substantial weight gain. Women affected by obesity have a greater risk for PCOS and women with PCOS have a greater risk of obesity which is why doctors advise once diagnosed to lose weight.
Infertility PCOS is one of the most common symptoms of infertility but it is also very treatable, the hormonal imbalance interferes with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation), a very common endocrine condition in reproductive-aged women. PCOS is said to negatively impact fertility because women with the condition do not ovulate, or release an egg, each month due to an overproduction of oestrogen by the ovaries. As many as 20% of women with infertility problems (including fecundability and early pregnancy loss) have been diagnosed with PCOS. This is not always the case as some women who are diagnosed with PCOS have regular periods every month. There are many women who have become pregnant naturally or with fertility treatments. Irregular Periods/ No periods Irregular periods occur as there can be a delay in the onset of the first period, or irregular bleeding. Every month a follicle matures and gets released by your ovaries to be fertilized, some women experience excessive menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) and other have no periods at all. But because of the hormonal imbalance seen in PCOS (typically higher levels of androgens like testosterone and high levels of luteinizing hormone), the follicle doesn't mature or get released. Instead of being released, the follicle (often miscalled a cyst) stays in the ovaries where it can be seen on an ultrasound.
Acne Sadly, acne affects a large percentage of PCOS patients and brings with it a great deal of both emotional and physical pain. Studies have found that 27% of women seeking treatment for acne suffer from PCOS. Cells in the pancreas produce insulin (which is necessary for our bodies to naturally turn sugars into energy) but it can’t be efficiently used. This leads to high levels of sugar build up in your blood. Acne is one of the most visible effects of PCOS, along with excess body and facial hair. However, PCOS is often misdiagnosed as another condition, and rarely brought up in a primary care doctor’s office until symptoms become severe. A huge number of PCOS patients remain undiagnosed, leaving many unknowingly suffering the skincare and reproductive consequences of the disease without a proper treatment plan. No adult wants to deal with huge cystic acne along the jawline, cheeks, chin and upper neck.
Here are the stories from two PCOS sufferers:
Olivia Hawthorne (photo credit Sarah Barrington) Twitter: Odhawthorne Instagram: Olivia_fit_ldn
I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 18, but pretty much showed signs and symptoms from about the age of 15. I was having dark facial hair removed before I'd even started my GCSE's, not something that fills a young girl with much confidence about herself! As I got older my symptoms grew worse, this included hirsutism, jawline acne, irregular periods, the most painful cramps, mood swings and hot flushes. When I was 21 I had my first rumbling cyst that meant I had to spend 2 days in hospital in the gynaecology ward. That's when I got serious about raising awareness and learning as much as I possibly could about this invisible illness. Exactly a year later, a cyst on my right ovary burst. I was lucky that I'd researched enough to know what was happening, but it didn't take away from the pain I was feeling. My doctor described the pain as being on par with being stabbed in the stomach - and I would agree! I had to have 4 rounds of morphine before I got to hospital. This all sounds super negative, but what I have learned is how strong the female body can be. I've met so many incredible women who have shared their stories and I've even created my own brand, Cycle For Your Cycle! What has come from something that causes me and many others so much pain, is something incredible and I hope that the PCOS word can continue to be spread!
Kiyanna Millerbriggs Twitter: @KiyannaMillerb Facebook: Kiyanna Millerbriggs
It all started with a hair on my chin, one appeared when I was in secondary school which was to my surprise. I told my mum about this and she took me to the doctors to get tested, I was told that I do not have PCOS, but my testosterone levels were still higher than they were supposed to be, so nothing was done. I then went to university and decided to get tested myself, I remember being told I needed to have a scan and my bladder needed to be full! At this point my doctor was in Loughborough and I was in London when I was finally given an appointment by the hospital. I sat on a 4-hour coach with a full bladder bursting to use the loo. I finally got tested and it later came back that I did have PCOS I was devastated as I had heard all the myths about it and on top of this the only solution that the doctors had give to me was to go on the pill and to keep plucking and threading. My experience with the pill had not been good in the past so I decided to do my own research into what I could do. I came across some vitamins that I’m trialling now, but I still have a long way to go on my journey. Let’s help to spread the word about PCOS because not enough is being done. Here is a PCOS poem written by Laura Jerman who was once diagnosed with PCOS and told she could not have children, but later had a child due to her changing her diet and lifestyle:
One day I am strong, the next I am not, Am I a true woman? I think I forgot! I try my hardest to take all in my stride, Yet behind my fake smile- I must try to hide. The hair on my neck, the spots on my face, The child that I long for, nothing can replace. The brush that is full, The weight I can’t shift, Between me and my hormones -one hell of a rift. I laugh then I cry, Who knows when or why?
PCOS, what is that you ask? Conceiving a baby is not such a task!? An illness inside that people can’t see, It’s really not easy at all to be me. I wish this would just go away, I know it is here, always to stay. Why is this happening? When will it end? What people can’t see, they don’t understand. Educate yourself is my only demand. The thing you can’t see, The thing with no cure, Be thankful it’s mine, not yours to endure.
I hope you now know, it’s not all in my head,
Sometimes going out, I really do dread. This illness I have sadly has no cure, So 'til one is found I must then endure. I will fight all I can, with loved ones by my side This isn’t my fault so why should I hide?
I hope you now see what I am trying to tell, And if I am grumpy, please do not yell. A silent disease, I walk with inside, Can make me appear like Jekyll & Hyde. The ‘Cysters’ unite, from near and from far, All that’s between us -a tiny spacebar. Together we fight and WILL find a way, To search for a cure, Maybe ? One day?
Words by Laura Jerman
If you wish to speak to anybody regarding PCOS here is a charity that you can contact:
P.C.O.S WE ARE WOMEN P.C.O.S WE ARE ONE!