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PCOS, maybe...
jessworried posted:
I am 29 and have never been "normal" as far as the womenly cycles. I have been to the doctor a few times but never continued with visits for a number of reasons. I have recently researched some PCOS topics and have found that I have quite a few of the symptoms. However I am now really concered about the issues and more worried about the outcome if I leave this problem untreated. I am in hopes of finding some advice and support from this site. Thanks in advance!
Arcturus responded:
Hey Jessworried,

PCOS is kind of a blanket term first of all. You can have all the symptoms or as many as two and still be diagnosed. This also means you may or may not have all of the side effects.

Knowing where you are on the PCOS spectrum is important. This does mean going to a doctor though. But please go to an endocrinologist! I worked with general practitioners and an OBGYN before finally going to an endocrinologist. The previous doctors didn't know how to properly read my test results and ordered a lot of extra/unnecessary tests.

Ask about testing not only for androgen levels but your fasting glucose and checking your ovaries for cysts. Symptoms, like acne, are hard to gauge because there are a lot of other influences (what you put on your face, how often you wash your face/with what, climate). Also know that hormone tests are variable because hormone levels change throughout your monthly cycle.

One of the best ways to treat PCOS, is the hardest: lifestyle change. This means diet and exercise. Since one of the underlying factors in some women w/PCOS is insulin resistance (it affects hormone levels), the aim of many PCOS diets is to reduce this. From what I've seen, these diets are like less intense versions of eating for diabetes. I'd look up PCOS diets, but if your at the grocery store many times you can figure out good foods if they're diabetic friendly.

The Pill is often prescribed to treat PCOS. I've heard controversy on this use because women who go off the pill (to have children, for example) sometimes experience high surges in their androgen levels that are worse than their pre-pill androgen levels. This makes conception harder and exacerbates PCOS symptoms. Also, the pill ends up affecting other aspects of your body/mood, so picking the right one is kind of a trial and error process that can be frustrating.

Even if you do need hormonal treatment, I still think the diet and exercise is really important because it can help you tackle PCOS related issues--like diabetes and heart disease (as a result of high cholesterol and blood pressure). It may also reduce your reliance on medication for treatment.

When I talked to my doctors they didn't really stress the diet/exercise option (which is why I'm stressing it here instead of other treatments). I'm not sure why they didn't do this. Maybe it's because most patients usually don't make lifestyle changes? Or because they were more interested in treating the symptoms than the cause? It also takes a few months to a year to really see the effects of diet/exercise (like lowered cholesterol).

Oh, and this may be obvious, but tracking your periods (how often/far apart, heavy, long) can help you. When I did this I found that stress had a significant impact on my periods.

Anyway, the more knowledge you have about your body and what is going on the more effective your decision making can be. It also made me feel less helpless.

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