Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormone disorder in women throughout the world. In reality, it isn’t really just one disorder, but rather it represents the result of several different issues in the body that end up as PCOS. First described in 1935, what defines PCOS has been a subject of debate among health providers ever since. It is now generally accepted that a woman is considered to have PCOS if she has at least 2 of the 3 following symptoms: increased male hormone levels, irregular menstrual cycles, and polycystic ovaries.
What we have learned over the better part of a century is that PCOS is associated with many different risks and outcomes. For example, a woman with PCOS is at increased risk for issues in pregnancy including miscarriage, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preterm delivery to name a few. Further, PCOS makes it harder to get pregnant in the first place, and consultation with a fertility specialist may be required to achieve a pregnancy. Fortunately, PCOS patients tend to respond well to fertility treatment and can often get pregnant with just a little help!
Importantly, PCOS women have lifelong risks to their general health as well. Studies have shown higher rates of anxiety and depression as well as pre-diabetes and heart disease. This is in part due to a common abnormality in PCOS known as insulin resistance, which is when the body does not respond to blood sugar like it should. When someone has Insulin Resistance, the body has to compensate to this resistance by secreting more insulin, and herein lies a problem. Insulin is the key hormone in regulating blood sugar for energy, but it is also has different actions throughout the body. Some of these other actions include increasing inflammation and stress as well as stimulating the ovary to make male hormones (which in turn make the body more insulin resistant!) The best way to combat this is to decrease the trigger of insulin release, namely sugar and simple carbohydrates like rice and white bread. Women that have insulin resistance can see a benefit in limiting foods that have a high glycemic index from their diet by blunting the effects of high insulin secretion. This, coupled with a moderate exercise regimen of 75-150 minutes per week can improve overall health.
PCOS is not something that can be cured, but it can be managed effectively. If you are concerned about PCOS and how it may be affecting your life, it may be a good time to sit down with a specialist. Understanding a woman’s story and how it may relate to PCOS is critical to tailoring a patient-centered treatment plan to make sure you are the healthiest you possible for years and years to come.
For more information, be sure to join us for the Understanding PCOS Seminar on September 26. Click here for details.