PCOS produces symptoms in approximately 5% to 10% of women of reproductive age (approximately 12 to 45 years old). It is thought to be one of the leading causes of female sub-fertility and the most frequent endocrine problem in women of reproductive age. Finding that the ovaries appear polycystic on ultrasound is common, but it is not an absolute requirement in all definitions of the disorder.
There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. Your doctor will take the following steps to find out if you have PCOS or if something else is causing your symptoms.
Medical history: Your doctor will ask about your menstrual periods, weight changes, and other symptoms.
Physical exam: Your doctor will want to measure your blood pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI), and waist size. He or she also will check the areas of increased hair growth. You should try to allow the natural hair to grow for a few days before the visit.
Pelvic exam: Your doctor might want to check to see if your ovaries are enlarged or swollen by the increased number of small cysts.
Blood tests: Your doctor may check the androgen hormone and glucose (sugar) levels in your blood.
Vaginal ultrasound (sonogram): Your doctor may perform a test that uses sound waves to take pictures of the pelvic area. It might be used to examine your ovaries for cysts and check the endometrium (lining of the womb). This lining may become thicker if your periods are not regular.
Although PCOS is a very common disorder, there are numerous myths and wrong assumptions regarding this syndrome.
Myth: PCOS Only Affects Women in Their 30’s and Beyond
Fact: The fact of the matter is that PCOS does not discriminate based on age. While it was once thought that PCOS only affected pre-menopausal women in their 30s and beyond, the medical community is now recognizing that the condition can affect females of all ages, and even young adolescent girls.
Myth: Women Who Develop PCOS Cannot Have Children
Fact: The truth is that while PCOS can complicate conception, it does not have to prevent you from having a baby. There are treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your condition and, as a result, achieve pregnancy when you are ready.
Myth: All Women Who Have PCOS Have Ovarian Cysts
Fact: The name of this disorder is very misleading. Many women assume that PCOS only exists in women who develop ovarian cysts. This is definitely not true. PCOS is a hormone-related disorder and ovarian cysts, while common in women who have the condition, do not have to be present in order for the disorder to be diagnosed.
Myth: All Women with PCOS Are Overweight
Fact: While PCOS and the resulting insulin resistance can lead to excess weight and obesity, not all women who have PCOS are overweight nor do women who live with this condition have to remain overweight if they are having trouble losing excess pounds. A proper diet and certain insulin-regulating medications can help the weight problems that are commonly caused by this frustrating disorder. If PCOS has led to significant weight changes in your body, there is hope. While you won’t be able to lose the weight overnight, you will be able to fight these changes and get your body back.
Myth: There is No Cure for PCOS
Fact: This myth is technically true. There is no actual “cure” for PCOS. However, there are many treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you take control of the disorder. A proper diet, control of insulin and an active lifestyle can make a significant difference. For example, if you are insulin resistant due to your PCOS, you might be given a prescription called Metformin. If you are suffering from acne, a dermatologist can help you control your acne symptoms. Instead of letting your PCOS control you, these changes will help you control your PCOS.
As more and more people begin to understand the true facts surrounding PCOS and the frustrating symptoms that it presents, more options will be found to help manage the condition. If you’re suffering from the common PCOS side effects, chances are there are lifestyle changes or medical treatments that can help you alleviate the symptoms and get your PCOS under control once and for all.