This is an image of a butterfly. The image represents PCOS.  Do I have PCOS?

No single test can show that you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Your doctor will talk to you about your medical history, do a physical exam, and run some tests.

What is PCOS?

You may have PCOS if you experience several of the following:

  • Family history of PCOS
  • Abdominal waist circumference greater than 35 inches
  • Difficulty losing weight in spite of an awesome diet and solid exercise routine
  • Heavy, irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • Intense carbohydrate cravings
  • Low blood sugar
  • Excessive hair growth on face or other parts of the body (inner thighs, belly button, back)
  • Hair loss from head
  • Skin tags or dirty looking patches of skin on some parts of your body

Do I have PCOS?

The physical exam checks your thyroid gland, skin, hair, breasts, and belly. You will have a blood pressure check and a pelvic exam to find out if you have enlarged or abnormal ovaries. Your doctor can also check your body mass index (BMI).

What are the signs that I may be experiencing low blood sugar?

Symptoms of low blood sugar can occur suddenly. They include:

  • blurry vision
  • rapid heartbeat
  • sudden mood changes
  • sudden nervousness
  • unexplained fatigue
  • pale skin
  • headache
  • hunger
  • shaking
  • sweating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • skin tingling
  • trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
  • loss of consciousness

If you have hypoglycemic unawareness, a condition in which you do not know your blood sugar level is dropping, your blood sugar can drop so quickly you may not even have warning symptoms. When this occurs, you can faint, experience a seizure, or even go into a coma.

What should I do if I think I have PCOS?

A minor surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) may be a treatment option for fertility problems associated with PCOS.

Under general anaesthetic, your doctor will make a small cut in your lower abdomen (tummy) and pass a long, thin microscope called a laparoscope through into your abdomen. The ovaries are then surgically treated using heat or a laser to destroy the tissue that’s producing androgens (male hormones).

Laparoscopic ovarian drilling has been found to lower levels of testosterone and luteinising hormone (LH) and raise levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This corrects your hormone imbalance and can restore the normal function of your ovaries.

What causes PCOS?

The cause of PCOS is unknown. But most experts think that several factors, including genetics, could play a role. Women with PCOS are more likely to have a mother or sister with PCOS.

 

A main underlying problem with PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. In women with PCOS, the ovaries make more androgens than normal. Androgens are male hormones that females also make. High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation.

 

Researchers also think insulin may be linked to PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body to use or store. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies because they have problems using it. Excess insulin appears to increase production of androgen. High androgen levels can lead to:

 

Acne

Excessive hair growth

Weight gain

Problems with ovulation

I have PCOS and have always exercised regularly. Why did I gain so much weight and why is it all around my mid-section? Will it ever go away?

Insulin levels are elevated, it causes us to store fat very easily not to mention that insulin stimulates appetite, making us hungrier for food. Regular exercise, modifications in your eating and taking insulin lowering medications such as metformin or actos, can help bring down elevated insulin levels and may help you to lose some weight around your mid-section. Some clients report that being on insulin lowering medications make them less hungry and less interested in food. Some, but not all people who take insulin-lowering medications have experienced some modest weight loss. Most agree that these medications help prevent hypoglycemic episodes and reduce carbohydrate cravings. The main side effect of these medications is diarrhea and may not be tolerated by all.

Can changes in my eating help improve my PCOS symptoms?

Absolutely! Numerous studies have shown that weight loss and/or improvements in eating patterns can reduce insulin and androgen levels and induce ovulation. Some studies have even shown that normalizing eating patterns in people with eating disorders including bulimia and binge eating disorder, can improve the appearance of cysts around the ovaries. This includes eating a balanced diet with regular activity. Some dietary supplements may be helpful as well. If you are confused over what to eat or find yourself bingeing or out of control with food, consider scheduling a PCOS nutrition assessment.

Is eating a low-carb diet the only way to lose weight if I have PCOS?

No. Again, studies are still lacking into the proper dietary treatment of PCOS but the majority of the evidence suggests that a moderate intake of whole grain carbohydrates balanced with healthy fats and lean protein are the keys to losing weight with PCOS. Many women with PCOS have found that if they cut out carbohydrates or eat very minimal amounts that it only causes them to binge eat on them in the long run. This can actually make PCOS symptoms worse by increasing insulin levels.

NOTE: The information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, and is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician regarding any medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, medication, or other health program.