What is PCOS
  • Mari

What is PCOS

Good Morning all my lovely people!

You are all looking great today!

This week has been zipping by I personally feel like, it could be that I have been busy almost every night this week which made the days merge together or it could be that overall I have just been working nonstop. Either way its a happy Thursday in my neck of the woods.

September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Awareness Month, So every year during the month of September you may see Teal ribbons in your local shops or even on some shirts. For those of you who may not know what exactly Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS for short, is actually one of the most common hormonal problems facing women of the reproductive age. |1|

There are Studies that PCOS affects an estimate of 6 to 15 percent of women, meaning 1 in 10 women of diagnosed with PCOS. |2| When you think of it like that at least one female member in any family could possibly have PCOS.

So what exactly is PCOS?

So what exactly is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal disorder, most common among women of reproductive ages, 12-51. In most cases women with PCOS either have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods; or excess male hormone levels. In some cases ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid or follicles which fail to regularly release eggs. |3|.

To really understand what PCOS is you have to understand that PCOS is not just one thing or symptom. There is different levels and it varies from person to person and how you take care of yourself. Women with PCOS may usually have two of the following symptoms while others may have all three:

Polycystic ovaries – this is a fancy a word for saying one of both of your ovaries contain 12 follicles that measure about 9 mm in diameter, or one of your ovaries have a volume greater than 10 mL. |4| You may be asking what Follicles are? Especially with the name Polycyctic Ovaries many people confuse PCOS with ovarian cysts, which is not correct PCOS actually doesn't actually mean you have any cysts ovaries. So the "Cyst" in PCOS actually represents the follicles you have. [5]

Which brings us to the burning question what is a follicle?

  • Well at the young age of 11-13 when girls are in the beginning age of puberty, their ovaries already contain approximately 400,000 immature eggs surrounded by a layer cells, the technical name of this is actually called, primordial follicle. Then as the young girl goes through her cycle each month, these follicles begin to grow. This happens as the egg matures and the follicles fill with fluid. These follicles then continue to grow into their 2nd stage and then by the 8th day to 10th of the ovarian cycle, the ovaries usually contain just one secondary follicle that will become a tertiary follicle, which is the third stage of growth. Then this mature follicle, approx. 15 mm in diameter, creates a normal bulge on the surface of the ovary. So on day 14 of the ovarian cycle, the follicle bursts open and releases the egg, allowing it to move through the uterine tube into the uterus. The release of an egg is known as ovulation.[6]

  • So on the flip side women with PCOS, contain a greater number of “growing” follicles in their ovaries. Meaning these extra follicles cause the ovary to appear lumpy or “polycystic” (poly = many, and cystic = sac). Then when this happens the mature follicles may stop growing altogether, often due to the high levels of follicle stimulating hormone, which means ovulation cannot take place .

Hyperandrogenism – Which means there is an excess male sex hormone, testosterone.

While testosterone is considered a “male” sex hormone, nearly all women produce it in their ovaries and adrenal glands. [7]

So why is it exactly?

  • While women do produce testosterone, we have significantly less than a man, about 90% less, However it has many important functions in the female body from being the forerunner for estrogen, testosterone supports sexual, cardiovascular, bone, and eye health.[9] According to evidence testosterone also plays a role in the development and health of ovarian follicles, which is why some women who undergo In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) are treated with male sex hormones.[10]

  • So while women do produce testosterone and it is a key factor in the reproductive system it does play a large part in PCOS.

Ovulatory dysfunction – This just means your have irregular cycles. oligomenorrhea, is a long menstrual cycles that are between 35 days to six months apart or amenorrhea which is when your menstrual period are absent for six to twelve months at a time.[3]

  • For reference, a normal menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. So during that time, bleeding usually lasts from one to seven days.[6]

So why is PCOS a Syndrome?

In PCOS there are four primary types that most women can be categorized into:

  • Type A – ovulatory dysfunction, hyperandrogenism, and polycystic ovaries [11]

  • Type B – ovulatory dysfunction and hyperandrogenism [11]

  • Type C – hyperandrogenism and polycystic ovaries [11]

  • Type D – ovulatory dysfunction and polycystic ovaries [11]

So where did it come from? What caused PCOS?

While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, many researchers believe that insulin resistance plays a major role. Some even saying that the resistance increases testosterone levels by suppressing the hormones that blind cause the testosterone to bind and make the adrenal glands go into overdrive and produce more testosterone than needed. |12|

While Insulin could be a cause some researchers believing that along with insulin resistance a family history of PCOS, with high levels of testosterone, are possible causes of PCOS.[13]

So how do you know if you have PCOS?

If you or someone you know thinks they may have PCOS you should contact your doctor and set up an appointment right away.

While there is no single test to diagnose PCOS, your primary doctor with talk with you about medical history and do a physical exam or different tests to help determine if you have PCOS. Some of these exams include:

  • Physical exam. Where your doctor will most likely measure your blood pressure, body mass index , and waist size. They will also look at your skin for extra hair on your face, chest or back, acne, or skin discoloration. |14|

  • Pelvic exam. Your doctor may do a pelvic exam for signs of extra male hormones and check to see if your ovaries are enlarged or swollen. |14|

  • Pelvic ultrasound (sonogram). This test uses sound waves to examine your ovaries for cysts and check the lining of the uterus or womb. |14|

  • Blood tests. Blood tests check your androgen hormone levels, sometimes called "male hormones." |14|

Having PCOS can often make you feel alone, its a silent battle. While so many women have this and deal with it daily, there is many that may not know.

I was diagnosed at 18 with PCOS, at the time there was no one that had it. I felt alone and like no one understood the issues I was dealing with. PCOS has a lot of side effects and I want to make a post sometime this week about the different side effects and the mental and physical toll it takes us.

At 18, I was young and dumb and didn't take my health seriously, so rather than listening to my doctors and taking care of myself I continued to live unhealthy and not take care of my body. Which ultimately effecting my PCOS to becoming the condition it is now.

I truly believe if I had someone then to sit down and talk to me and just say that I wasn't messed up or broken, it would have went a long way and I would have looked at my body and life differently. Now that I am older and PCOS is actually being talked about thanks to multiple influences from Maci Bookout who went to the White House to advocate for September to be recognized as PCOS awareness month to Sasha Ottey, who is the Executive Director of the PCOS Challenge |18|. There is women and girls who know about PCOS and can take care of themselves and make sure their health is a priority.

If you or someone you know has PCOS and can just use someone to talk to or vent to, feel free to send over any type of message or start a chat. I promise that I will always be there for those who need it and I hope that one day we can change world.



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