Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Some medical disorders have the potential to impact your life, so you’ll want to learn everything you can about them once you’ve been diagnosed. PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is an excellent example. PCOS causes hormonal imbalances and metabolism issues in women, which can be harmful to their health. However, the condition though widely prevalent among women of reproductive age is severely underdiagnosed. It is possible that you may not even be aware that you have the disorder despite showing symptoms.
Because the syndrome is misunderstood — even by some doctors — myths and misconceptions can impact diagnosis and treatment, and ultimately prevent you from effectively living well with PCOS. So, it’s important to separate fact from fiction in order to empower yourself to live a full, productive life with PCOS. In this article, we will dispel some common myths about this common hormonal condition.
What is PCOS?
Male hormones called androgens, regulate the development of many of the physical characteristics specific to adult males. While all women produce tiny quantities of androgens, those with PCOS have higher levels of these male hormones, as well as elevated levels of insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar. This can inhibit ovulation and make pregnancy difficult. Insulin resistance is a very common occurrence among PCOS women.
Some common symptoms of PCOS are:
- Infrequent, irregular, or prolonged menstrual cycles
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Excessive facial and body hair growth
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair and hair loss
- Oily skin or acne
- Multiple follicles or cystic ovaries
- Skin tags in the armpits and neck area
Myth #1: PCOS is a disease of the ovaries
The name assigned to this condition — Polycystic Ovary Syndrome — is, in fact, a misnomer. Not every woman with PCOS has ovarian cysts, and polycystic cysts on their own do not necessarily indicate PCOS. The condition is an endocrine and metabolic disorder that affects the ovaries; however, it can also affect the rest of the body beyond the ovaries. Additionally, it can also impact a woman’s mind, body, and identity as a woman.
Myth #2: You can get rid of PCOS by weight loss
Women who are overweight or obese, have poor dietary and exercise habits, or have a family history of type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop this condition. The hormonal imbalance makes it especially challenging for women to lose that extra body fat because the condition creates an imbalance in hunger hormones. But it doesn’t mean that it is impossible to shed those extra pounds. People who are obese or overweight can help balance their hormone levels by adopting the lifestyle and dietary changes. By following a workout routine and eating a healthy diet, you can improve the way your body uses insulin and, therefore, regulate your hormone levels better.
Myth #3: Every woman having PCOS should go on the birth control pill
Birth control pills can also be a good treatment option to treat the menstrual irregularities of PCOS because they can regulate your menstrual cycle and reduce androgen levels. That said, it is important to note that birth control pills are associated with an increased risk of blood clots, especially in obese patients and women over 40. So you should speak with your doctor to make an informed decision that works best for you. Also, if you want to get pregnant, going on a birth control pill is certainly not the right option for you.
Myth #4: PCOS is a rare condition
PCOS is thought to affect 10 percent of reproductive-age women. This makes it one of the most frequent hormonal endocrine disorders among women of reproductive age. However, according to the PCOS Foundation, only about half of all women with PCOS are appropriately identified, potentially leaving millions of people in the dark about their disease. According to the PCOS Foundation, this condition is the source of fertility problems in about 70% of women who have ovulation problems.
Myth #5: You can’t conceive if you have PCOS
PCOS affects women in many different ways. Don’t assume that just because you have PCOS, you should give up trying to conceive. This isn’t always the case. While PCOS makes it more difficult to conceive, you can still get pregnant, either naturally or after fertility treatments such as follicle-stimulating drugs. Talk to your doctor about the best fertility treatment for you. Ovulation stimulation is possible with a variety of drugs, which is the main difficulty for women with PCOS. Other fertility options for women with PCOS include assisted reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization.
Myth #6: PCOS affects only overweight women
It is a myth that many women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Because of this misconception, lean women with PCOS often go undiagnosed for years. The truth is, PCOS has no bounds and can affect women of different shapes and sizes. There is no doubt that obesity might exacerbate PCOS symptoms. The link between weight and PCOS is due to the body’s inability to correctly utilize insulin, which can result in weight increase. As a result, developing the habit of eating healthy and exercising regularly is recommended as part of most women’s treatment plans.
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