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Understanding PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)

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The human body is a remarkably complex collection of systems that still manages to work correctly most of the time. Things do go wrong sometimes that lead to complications. The disease tends to be what most of us have to deal with, but some people must also contend with breakdowns or misfires of the body itself instead. These can be frustrating and sometimes humiliating as it often feels like one’s body is betraying them. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of these conditions. The vexing condition is lifelong and the exact effects depend on the individual, but what we do know is that it can happen to anyone with ovaries of reproductive age regardless of their gender. PCOS can be equal parts painful and frustrating depending on the symptoms each person experiences. The most unfortunate part of all of this is that many people don’t even know the condition exists. That’s why we’re going to take a little time to take a closer look at the condition so we can have a better understanding of what it is and what it does to the body.

What Is It?
As the name suggests, PCOS is the formation of cysts on ovaries. These cysts end up contributing to disruptions of hormonal cycles and as a result, end up causing a variety of effects on the body. The most common results include extended or unpredictable menstruation, apparent fertility issues, and androgen levels outside of expected ranges. These symptoms frequently occur early on in an individual’s life and typically within a few years of the beginning of menstruation. PCOS can occur later in life, but this is far less frequent and often results from complications from other health issues. All of these issues have a way of distinctly affecting a person’s life as doctors will typically need to provide means of stabilizing the hormonal issues caused by PCOS to ensure someone’s overall health. Medications prescribed frequently help to stabilize hormonal cycles and fight back against unwelcome manifestations of PCOS such as unwelcome hair loss and hair growth. All of these help to maintain the quality of life with minimal disruption.

What Causes It?
The most frustrating part of PCOS is that there aren’t necessarily any clear reasons for why it happens in the first place. Studies are finding more and more things that are likely linked to condition though and contribute to it happening even if there is no clear cause. There do appear to be genetic connections to the condition as it seems PCOS runs within some families. Having family with PCOS is not necessarily a sure sign that someone will have it though. Another potential factor in PCOS is also one of its symptoms: excessive androgens. These likely lead to some of the disruptions that cause the manifestation of PCOS. There are some studies that link excess androgens to an increased amount of insulin in the body as well. These two linked issues show how it is possible for a single problem to cascade into other issues until the body becomes having noticeable problems. All of these are only potential reasons for why PCOS happens to people, but for the time being, they are our best answers.

How Is It Treated?
We touched on these briefly above, but it is worth taking a closer look at these so that we have a clear picture. As highlighted before, most medications prescribed for managing PCOS are forms of hormonal medication meant to help stabilize menstruation in the individual to ensure the body has an overall healthy cycle. A lot of the time this can take the form of a combination of birth control pills, but other medications are used as well. PCOS cases where increased androgens are a problem frequently result in doctors prescribing medication that reduces the body’s sensitivity to androgens to help minimize their overall effects. Due to the hormonal nature of PCOS, increased weight and difficulty with controlling weight are common. Some doctors will, therefore, ask patients to make lifestyle changes to help manage their weight. A healthy weight will allow other steps taken to treat PCOS to be more effective overall as well. Most of the time there will be consistent treatment across one’s life with medication adjustments to accommodate particular life goals such as pregnancy.

As frustrating as PCOS can be, it only gets more frustrating when people don’t talk or know about it. The complications from the condition can lead to constant worry and fear among people with it. Knowing what the potential symptoms of it are and being able to have a clear conversation with one’s doctors allows for a healthy conversation to happen along with proper assessment. This will help result in proper treatment and help one feel back in control of one’s own body. There may be no cure for PCOS, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an enjoyable life with proper management of the chronic condition.

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