For years thousands of women have incorporated unusual daily rituals and affirmations to manage symptoms that seemed to be unrelated. Some of these rituals might include plucking, shaving, treatments to reduce hair loss, acne creams, diets to fight unexplained weight gain, skin bleaches, and repeated trips to doctors who tell them their irregular menstrual cycles and problems are all in their heads.
For Kimberly Sacs, an earlier diagnosis of PCOS could have eliminated years of misdiagnoses and pain. “My PCOS story began at an early age. I was always the first child in my class to develop– I was considered “overweight” from the age of 8 on. I was told that I was lazy by doctors, offered forms of speed to increase my metabolism and even told that if I didn’t loose weight that a doctor might, one day, have to stick a needle in my heart if I had a heart attack.”
Eight years later, Kimberly finally received a diagnosis, “At the age of 16 I had a stretch of 6 months without a period. A family doctor gave me a five-day dose of hormones to “jump-start” my period. That worked once, but when it didn’t work again and I requested another doctor. A caring and intelligent young intern noticed the correlation of many of my medical conditions–the weight, the depression, and the break in my cycles. She diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).”
Although PCOS Polycystic Ovary syndrome affects up to 10% of women and girls of reproductive age, it is estimated that less than half know they have it! To put this in to perspective, 6% of both men and women have diabetes, which is well known and supported. PCOS, a precursor to diabetes again affects up to 10% of women alone and many medical professional are stil not up to date with diagnosis, treatment and management of PCOS!
What PCOS is, and what it does to women who have it, is complicated to explain as symptoms and severity of the syndrome can vary from person to person. Some of the classic symptoms are drastic weight gain, hair loss, depression, fatigue, thyroid problems, high cholesterol, panic attacks, headaches, dizzy spells, poor memory or muddled mind, sleeping disorders, constant thirst, extreme cravings, insulin resistance, cystic acne, cystic ovaries, menstrual cycles without ovulation, irregular cycles, severe mood swings, high testosterone levels, infertility problems, excess facial and body hair, not to mention a seven times greater risk than an average woman for four major health concerns affecting women in the United States today including heart disease, diabetes, endometrial cancer and stroke.
Many women have experienced the same lack of response as Kimberly did, and are left w with little understanding of PCOS and the best way to treat it. This may be due to the fact that there is n centralized resources for teaching and learning about PCOS!
Deborah Cardoza didn’t give her symptoms much thought until she wanted to start a family ” I came across a short article in a magazine, I believe, that talked about PCOS and those symptoms fit me! I went to my internist who ran some tests. While the tests didn’t support a PCOS diagnosis. I was thin, young, and didn’t know much so the only thing I did about my symptoms was to go for laser hair removal, which didn’t wind up working and left me to start shaving my face every morning.
Over the next few years I did not give my symptoms much thought until my husband and I decided to start a family. Suspecting I may have problems, we went straight to a reproductive endocrinologist. Pre-IVF testing this time showed I did have PCOS. The doctor put me on an insulin sensitizer to help me lose weight before any cycles to conceive. I wasn’t on it for long when my husband and I decided to build our family another way. My weight wasn’t a big issue at the time, and I still didn’t know all I do now about PCOS.”
Prior to a few years ago, PCOS had been largely misunderstood and rarely diagnosed. The information to make a proper diagnosis just wasn’t there. Your concerns, in many cases, would have been dismissed. Now the medical community is realizing it is more than menstrual irregularities, it’s a lifelong condition that can take years off of your life.
Sarah Yochved- Goldstein like many others who have dealt with PCOS from an early age feels awareness and information about the syndrome are important, “I hope and pray daily that doctors will get more aggressive with treatment, ladies will educate themselves better, and insurance companies will give preventative treatment instead of waiting until a woman needs drastic measures to regain her life! It is my blessings that whoever helps in this, and any woman that educates herself and aggressively takes part in her care will experience some success, whether the return of her health and vitality, or the eventual birth of a child.”
The good news is that there is now more information than ever about this syndrome -medical professionals are being trained to recognize the symptoms and know the best way to confirm a diagnosis is sending women to endocrinologists for testing.
“Remember information is the key!,” say Ashley Tabeling, Founder of Project PCOS projectpcos.org , a new website a central resource for information, education and awareness for PCOS. She continues, ” The more you know about PCOS or any condition, the better you will be at communicating with your medical professionals and understanding what steps you need to take to live a happier and healthier life.”