September is PCOS Awareness Month — which kicks off with World PCOS Day on the first of the month — so if you’re navigating a polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) diagnosis, know you’re not alone. PCOS affects as many as 13% of reproductive-aged women worldwide, but unfortunately, an estimated 70% of women with PCOS remain undiagnosed.
With these stats in mind, Dr. Rachel Spieldoch and our team at McDowell Mountain Gynecology in Scottsdale, Arizona, are on a mission to spread awareness about this gynecologic condition so you can spot the warning signs of PCOS and get the treatment you need.
Here’s a closer look at PCOS and how it can affect your fertility, appearance, and overall health.
A brief overview of PCOS
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women during their reproductive years. It’s characterized by imbalanced hormone levels, irregular menstrual cycles, and the development of small cysts on the ovaries, hence the name.
Symptoms of PCOS are often mistaken for symptoms of other conditions. Common symptoms include:
- Irregular or absent periods
- Acne and oily skin
- Thinning hair on your scalp but excess hair growth (hirsutism) on other parts of your body, especially the face
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- Insulin resistance and potential for diabetes
- Mood swings and depression
- Pelvic pain
Because these symptoms can appear with other conditions, getting an accurate diagnosis is important before starting a treatment plan. Dr. Spieldoch diagnoses PCOS through a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, and various tests, including blood tests (to check hormone levels) and pelvic ultrasounds (to confirm the presence of cysts).
PCOS and reproductive health
PCOS can significantly impact your fertility due to its influence on ovulation and hormonal balance.
Because PCOS can suppress or delay ovulation — the crucial process responsible for releasing eggs from your ovaries — it can be challenging for women to conceive. Even if you still ovulate (albeit irregularly), it’s hard to track your fertile periods and time intercourse appropriately to conceive.
PCOS doesn’t just impact ovulation. It also disrupts the delicate balance of hormones necessary for egg production and maturation. Elevated insulin levels can lead to higher androgen production, and this hormone shift can potentially interfere with the normal maturation of your eggs. As a result, your ovaries may develop small cysts, another issue that contributes to irregular menstrual cycles and hinder fertility.
PCOS and your appearance
PCOS can also influence your appearance and impact your self-confidence levels. The hormonal imbalances triggered by PCOS can lead to various changes in your skin and hair. In fact, these physical changes are often the red flags that lead women to suspect they have PCOS.
Many women with PCOS may struggle with:
- Excess hair growth, especially on the face, chest, and back
- Thinning hair
These physical changes can lead to emotional distress, particularly where hair issues are involved.
PCOS and health challenges
While PCOS's impact on fertility and appearance is widely recognized, its effects on your health are equally significant … if not more. Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing conditions like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease. Research also indicates that women with PCOS are more likely to develop certain cancers, including ovarian, kidney, pancreas, and endometrial.
Many women with PCOS struggle with weight gain due to hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance. Excess weight can further exacerbate your PCOS symptoms but also increase your risk of obesity-related conditions, such as certain cancers, osteoarthritis, and gallbladder disease.
Empower yourself with knowledge and support
PCOS Awareness Month allows us to spotlight this condition’s far-reaching impact on your fertility, appearance, and overall health. Dr. Spieldoch and the team here at Mountain Gynecology stand as a beacon of support, advocating for education, awareness, and comprehensive care for women battling PCOS.
Our comprehensive care may include:
- Guidance with lifestyle modifications
- Birth control pills to help decrease androgen production
- Medications to stimulate ovation for those wishing to conceive
- Hair removal treatments to address unwanted body hair, such as eyebrow waxing and laser hair removal
- Acne treatments and other aesthetic skin treatments
If you or someone you know is affected by PCOS, remember you're not alone. Give us a call at 480-483-9011 to access the resources and expertise you need to navigate PCOS with confidence and resilience. This September, take a stand against PCOS and schedule an appointment today.