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Health

Let’s talk about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometriosis and Fibroids

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, and Fibroids are all examples of conditions that affect a woman’s reproductive organs including the Uterus and Ovaries.  Though they are all alike, they all have differences, and in some cases affect the body differently.

PCOS is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. It is thought to affect 1 in every 10 women, with more than half having no symptoms. It is one of the most common, but treatable causes of infertility in women.

Symptoms of PCOS usually become apparent during your late teens or early 20’s. These symptoms include: 

  • Irregular periods (or none at all)

  • Difficulty getting pregnant as a result of irregular or failed ovulation

  • Excessive hair growth, usually on the face, chest, back, or buttocks, caused by a high level of ‘male’ hormones (androgen) in your body

  • Weight gain

  • Thinning hair/hair loss 

  • Acne or oily skin

While there is no cure for PCOS, the symptoms are treatable with medication and/or lifestyle changes. With treatment, most women with PCOS can get pregnant.  

The cause of PCOS is unknown, but it often runs in families. It is related to abnormal hormone levels in the body, including a high level of insulin. Many women with PCOS are resistant to the action of insulin within their body and produce higher levels of insulin to overcome this, contributing to the increased production and activity of hormones like testosterone.

Endometriosis is a long term condition where tissue that is similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in different places (for example, the ovaries and fallopian tubes).

Some symptoms of Endometriosis can include:

  • Pelvic pain or pain in the abdominal area, which is usually worse during your period.

  • Period pain which impacts your daily activities

  • Pain during or after sex

  • Feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your urine during your period

  • Difficulty getting pregnant.

  • Heavy periods are also a common symptom of endometriosis. 

It is advised to see a GP if you are experiencing these symptoms – especially if they are having a big impact on your life.  It is sometimes hard to diagnose, as often the symptoms are common with other conditions, and symptoms can vary with each person. 

There’s currently no cure for the condition, but treatments are often prescribed to help ease the symptoms. These include painkillers, contraceptives, and hormone medicines, and sometimes surgery to cut away the patches of endometriosis tissue. You may also be advised in some cases to undergo an operation to remove part (or all) of the organs affected, such as a Hysterectomy. 

One of the main problems caused by endometriosis is infertility, though this can sometimes be helped by removing the patches of endometriosis tissue that can improve your chances of getting pregnant.

The cause of endometriosis is not known, though  some theories have suggested  genetics and immune system problems can contribute. Endometriosis can be a difficult condition to live with, both physically and emotionally, but there are supports out there - from your doctor, but there are many support groups that can give you further information and advice. 

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in and around the womb (uterus), with around 1 in 3 women developing them at some point in their life. They are made up of muscle and fibrous tissue and can be a range of sizes. Often, it is not known that someone has fibroids as they may have no symptoms. Only around 1 in 3 women who have fibroids, experience symptoms, and therefore most times it is only diagnosed by chance during a routine gynaecological test or scan. 

The usual symptoms of Fibroids include: 

  • Heavy and often painful periods

  • Abdominal pain

  • Lower back pain

  • A frequent need to urinate

  • Constipation

  • Pain/discomfort during sex

There are three main types of fibroids. Intramural Fibroids are the most common type of Fibroids, developing in the muscle wall of the womb. Subserosal Fibroids develop outside the wall of the womb in the pelvis and may become very large. Submucosal fibroids develop in the muscle layer beneath the womb's inner lining, growing into the cavity of the womb. 

In terms of treatments available, some fibroids will not need treatment if they are not causing symptoms – overtime they will shrink and disappear, particularly after menopause. If symptoms are present medication or surgery may be recommended by your GP.

It is unknown what the cause of fibroids is, but they have been linked to the hormone Oestrogen. They tend to develop during a woman’s reproductive years (16-50) when Oestrogen levels are the highest, and they may shrink when the levels drop, such as after the menopause.

 

HerCampus DCU advises anyone worried about their symptoms to contact their local GP.

My name is Emma, and I'm originally from the north west of Ireland! I'm a journalism student in DCU, and have loved reading and writing ever since I was young. I'm a big lover of music, and also do some modelling work on the side!
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