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My blog has always been a place where I’ve found a great place to express myself. This includes sharing information on my mental health conditions as well as experiences and illnesses. Periods have always been a taboo topic in society, and this shouldn’t be the case! Therefore, I am happy to share my story and how I got diagnosed with PCOS and hope it is useful for anyone going through a similar situation.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a condition that affects how ovaries work. Although there aren’t huge amounts of data about how many people have the condition, it is likely that 1 in 10 have it. Meaning it is a common condition. Therefore I decided to share my personal story with PCOS, what it is and how I found out that I have it.
What are the main features of PCOS:
According to the NHS, the main features of polycystic ovary syndrome are:
- Excess androgen – high levels of “male” hormones in your body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair
- Polycystic ovaries – your ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs (but despite the name, you do not actually have cysts if you have PCOS)
- Irregular periods – which means your ovaries do not regularly release eggs (ovulation)
What are the causes?
Sometimes PCOS runs in families, but the exact cause is unknown. It’s related to abnormal hormone levels in the body. It tends to stem from being resistant to insulin, making their bodies produce higher levels to overcome this, which allows for the increased production of hormones like testosterone.
Currently, there is no cure for PCOS, but there are ways to manage your symptoms.
How do I know if I have it?
There are a lot of symptoms that indicate the possibility of having PCOS. These vary from person to person, and not everyone has the same symptoms. Some examples of the most common symptoms are:
- Lack of or no periods
- Weight gain
- Excessive body hair
- Oily skin/acne
- Hair thinning or loss
If you suspect you have PCOS and match any of the above symptoms, it is worth reaching out to a healthcare professional. No periods are often a sign that something is wrong (unless you are pregnant or on contraception).
It took me some time to go to the doctor after not having periods for almost 4 years. I had no idea what it could be, as that is a scary amount of time to go without one. I often doubted the possibility of having it due to my weight gain; I assumed it must have been that. However, after yet another missed period, but still suffering the cramps, I did every month. Heading to visit the GP seemed like my only option left. It was scary as I’d been putting it off for so long, but I knew I had to do it. My doctor seemed highly concerned about the length of time it has been since my period, and she advised me any more than 3 months is concern enough.
After speaking to my GP, she got the ball rolling and referred me to get a scan.
How did I get diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
After a few consultations with my GP followed by numerous blood tests and scans, my GP concluded that PCOS was likely. However, my GP surgery didn’t know much about the condition. Therefore I was referred to a specialist. Sadly, with some healthcare professionals, there tends to be a lack of knowledge around the subject. Making it harder to explain the symptoms and side effects.
To get diagnosed, you need to meet 2 of the 3 criteria:
-Having irregular periods or infrequent periods
– Blood tests that show you have high levels of ‘male hormones’
-Scans showing you have polycystic ovaries.
My appointment with the specialist came through really quickly and was confirmed after he looked at my scan results. The specialist was so kind, went through what it meant and explained the next steps. He also spoke to me about how there are more treatments in terms of fertility now than ever before if this is something I ever wanted to consider. He also advised it would link with my raised issues, which were my rapid weight gain and constant oily skin.
Is there treatment for PCOS?
As PCOS is known for making increased levels of insulin, it can be treated with diabetic medication. Although the medication your specialist may put you on might not know to be known specifically for that condition. The specialist put me on Metformin, and I still take it to this day. I find it is helpful for me and makes my body have periods. But, not everybody gets on well with Metformin as the side effects can also be difficult to deal with. However, not everyone gets on with medication which makes complete sense.
It is also known that having a healthy lifestyle can improve your symptoms.
If you’re unsure about your periods or think you may have PCOS, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor, who will discuss this further.
If you’re struggling to come to terms with the diagnosis or want to learn more about the condition and how to manage it, here are some resources I found helpful:
Diabetes.co.uk – PCOS & Diabetes: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html
Verity – The UK PCOS charity: https://www.verity-pcos.org.uk/what-is-pcos.html
Clue- The period-tracking app: https://helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/what-you-may-not-know-about-pcos-questions-and-misconceptions