healthy eating and stomach health conceptPolycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common disorder for women in the child-bearing years. By disrupting regular ovulation of a healthy egg, PCOS can be a factor in infertility for many women.

The condition is characterized by the presence of a series of small benign cysts on the ovaries, often in a formation similar to a string of pearls. In addition, women with PCOS may have ovaries that are enlarged. These are typically seen using ultrasound.

While there is no known cause for the condition, there are several facts that surround PCOS. Unfortunately, there are also quite a few myths. Let’s dispel some of the most common myths today in this post:

Myth: PCOS only develops when a woman gains a lot of weight.
Fact: PCOS can occur as early as the first menses for a woman. In some cases, the condition develops in response to weight gain, however. This does not mean that all women with the condition are overweight, however. Women who are underweight can have the condition as well.

Myth: PCOS has the same symptoms for all women.
Fact: PCOS affects different women differently. There are many signs of the condition, including intense or light menstrual periods, intense cramping, cycles that are excessively short (25 days or less) or excessively long (35 days or more). Some women have elevated amounts of the male hormone androgen, which naturally occurs in healthy women. This can result in acne or hirsutism (excessive hair growth) or male-pattern baldness. Some women’s PCOS can create insulin resistance, where the cells are no longer able to detect and process glucose, causing the blood sugar levels to rise. When diagnosing the condition, your doctor will usually look for two or more of these symptoms.

Myth: If you have PCOS, you will be infertile.
Fact: While PCOS is a factor for many women’s infertility, it is not an automatic effect of the condition. Many experts are able to effectively treat the symptoms of the condition to facilitate regular ovulation of a healthy egg by the use of fertility drugs or even the use of some drugs used to treat diabetes and even cancer. Many women with the condition can get their hormones in balance simply by changing their diet and exercise routines. If you have the condition, be sure to discuss your treatment options with your doctor to determine what will work best in your individual case.

Myth: If you aren’t trying to conceive, then PCOS is no big deal.
Fact: If PCOS is left untreated, it has been known to develop into more serious health conditions. These conditions include but are not limited to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, increases in cholesterol, changes in metabolism, depression and anxiety disorders, sleep apnea and abnormal uterine bleeding. In some severe cases, particularly when obesity is a factor, it has contributed to cancer of the uterine lining and gestational diabetes. All women who are suffering from the condition should seek the treatment of their doctor to help get the symptoms under control and prevent further detriments to their health, whether they are actively trying to get pregnant or not.

PCOS affects a large number of women in the childbearing years. As a common condition, it is important that all women see their doctors if they suspect they might have it. While it is often a contributor to infertility, as it affects the regular ovulation of a healthy egg, it does not always prevent women from getting pregnant. Don’t listen to the myths, but instead listen to your doctor on how to best treat your condition to help you have a healthy family and a healthy body while you raise them.

Sources:

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)” www.mayoclinic.org. Web. 8 August 2014. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/basics/definition/con-20028841>

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet.” www.womenshealth.gov. Web. 8 August 2014. <http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html