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5 million women have PCOS.

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

What is PCOS? You may have heard this abbreviation being talked about during women’s health conversations, and wondered what it was. PCOS specifically stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is a disease where the body’s hormonal system produces more male hormones than normal. This can result in cysts, which are pockets of fluid that form in the ovaries. These cysts can sometimes prevent a normal menstrual cycle, meaning that the eggs which usually shed during a typical period will no longer be released. It is a severe disease that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age, and usually women of 18-44 years of age.

Having PCOS is hard to manage, as it can result in a flurry of other diseases and health issues. Since this disease does affect the organs that help to bring life, it can affect not only the menstrual cycle, but even one’s fertility. As stated by Johns Hopkins Medicine, women with PCOS can develop “Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, problems with the heart and blood vessels, and uterine cancer.” Not only are there future consequences, but women living with PCOS have to deal with daily difficulties. These could include random and excessive hair growth, sudden weight gain, or even acne. If you experience any of these symptoms currently, you should talk to your doctor for future evaluation. You are also welcome to ask your doctor about any concerns you may have with PCOS regardless of whether you are experiencing these symptoms. This evaluation can include ultrasounds, blood tests, fertility appointments, and other types of  appointments with your primary care physician or gynecologist. Through all of these, you will be able to find out more information on how to change your diet, what physical activity you should start or continue doing, which medications to take, and future plans for your fertility treatments. 

You might be thinking how one becomes diagnosed with PCOS, or if there is a genetic factor to this illness. Unfortunately, researchers have not been able to pinpoint exactly what causes PCOS. But, they have pointed to a few possible factors. As stated by Mayo Clinic, some factors include “excess insulin, low-grade inflammation, heredity, and excess androgen.” Insulin is usually stated in the context of diabetes; but, in this case, an excessive amount of insulin could also result in a cycle of producing more androgen hormones, resulting in “difficulty with ovulation.” However, if you experience any of the above  symptoms, you can catch it early, and be able to receive an early diagnosis and treatment. Inflammation relates to how well the body fights off the bad cells, or infections. And, heredity relates to whether there are specific genes that can trigger PCOS. For example, there are specific genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, for breast cancer that can result in a higher risk and probability of having breast cancer. Similarly, with PCOS, it looks like there are specific genes, but it is not as clear to researchers which genes those are

As the most common endocrine disorder for women, PCOS is not talked about as much as it should be.​​ In general, there is a lack of attention when it comes to diseases that women specifically face, but, with PCOS, it is even more widely ignored. PCOS is a life-altering disease for women, as there are a variety of present and future factors that have to be considered. It can take a toll on mental health, physical health, and even relationships with others. As someone who does not have PCOS, I wish that I knew more about the disease, as I found out that some of my family and friends are living with it. PCOS can dramatically affect the way each woman lives their life.  A research paper published in 2009 concluded that PCOS treatment should not be based only on resolving the symptoms, but also supporting patients in a holistic manner; “PCOS can affect a woman’s mind, body, and her identity with herself as a woman” (Brady, Polycystic ovary syndrome and its impact on women’s quality of life: More than just an endocrine disorder).

I hope that you have learned more about PCOS in one way or another, and can use this information to start an engaging conversation with your peers. If you know of someone living with PCOS, try to reach out to find ways you can better support their lifestyle with PCOS. Each woman is different, but taking the first step to reach out is the best way to hear another’s perspective, and find out actual tangible items you can provide to improve their well-being.

*DISCLAIMER: This article is not medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, images and other material contained in this article are for informational purposes only, and are based on previously published research journals, and other medically reviewed articles. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.*

Sources:

  1. Brady, C., Mousa, S. S., & Mousa, S. A. (2009). Polycystic ovary syndrome and its impact on women’s quality of life: More than just an endocrine disorder. Drug, healthcare and patient safety, 1, 9–15. https://doi.org/10.2147/dhps.s4388
  2. Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590161319300948
  6. Unluturk, U., Harmanci, A., Kocaefe, C., & Yildiz, B. O. (2007). The Genetic Basis of the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Literature Review Including Discussion of PPAR-gamma. PPAR research, 2007, 49109. https://doi.org/10.1155/2007/49109
Meghana Reddy is the Campus Correspondent for the SCU chapter of Her Campus. Currently, she is a 4th year student pursuing a Major in Neuroscience and Minor in Computer Science. Meghana is passionate about women in entrepreneurship, consulting, healthcare, women's health, and dogs! In her free time, she loves to travel, try new foods, and practice yoga!
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