The Health of Your Body with PCOS
While I know you’re having a blast reading through the medical-style answers on PCOS, do you mind if I get real with you for a second? Good! The bottom line of this (completely unfair) condition is that it jacks with your hormones.
The Hormone Situation
The reason so many women’s first symptoms are missed periods, facial hair, and hair loss on the head is because the PCOS body typically produces way too many androgens. Androgens (like testosterone) are male-typical hormones. All females produce a little, but for us lucky gals, we’ve got way more than we need.
The copious amount of testosterone and testosterone cousins dumped into our blood stream makes our body freak out, and messes with the development of eggs. Not like chicken eggs, like, ovulation eggs.
Diabetes and PCOS – What Gives?
As if that little lottery isn’t enough for us “cysters” (what we call ourselves, sometimes), some science has linked the condition with over-production of insulin.
If you know anyone with diabetes, you probably know that insulin is what controls how our body uses sugar and carbs into energy. With cysters, we have way too much insulin in our blood (on average, not everyone), which is why most of us notice an increase in fat. Specifically, we get belly fat. Yay hormones!
In most PCOS women (like myself) this can lead to pre-diabetes; if left unchecked, that can quickly turn into diabetes. For that reason, it’s super important to get treated.
How is PCOS Handled by the Medical Community?
As with most newer disorders, the medical community has little to go on when it comes to PCOS. The typical treatment is a cocktail of birth control, diabetes meds, fertility meds, and symptom control meds. For some women, that can add up to as many as five pills a day if not more. Before the doc gets there with you, they’ll probably recommend lifestyle change (which we will also cover).
Labs + Bloodwork Used to Diagnose PCOS
The most common place people end up being formally diagnosed is their gynecologist. In most cases, fertility specialists and endocrinologists are the most proficient at handling polycystic ovarian syndrome, making them a good option too. Once you’re diagnosed, you’ll want to have a team of doctors that you work with to help get your health on track; we’ll get to that later. For now, here are the most common steps to diagnosing PCOS…
The 7 People You Want on Your PCOS Team!
In the case that you can afford it, having a good medical + wellness team to help you on your journey is the most ideal way to fight PCOS. Typically, your squad should include:
- Primary Care Physician: Day to day symptoms + wellness management.
- Endocrinologist: Help manage hormonal fluctuations.
- OBGYN: Fertility and Reproductive symptoms.
- Dermatologist: Hair + Skin Issues
- Nutritionist or Health Coach: Helping you reverse PCOS.
- Fitness Instructor or Coach: Helping you reverse PCOS.
- Counselor or Life Coach: Help you manage the emotional toll this takes.
Personally, I got by with a counselor, a life coach, a PCP, and an OBGYN along with the folks at my local CrossFit box that helped me keep motivated.
Diagnosis of PCOS
- Medical History: The first thing you’ll be asked for is your medical history. Knowing your genetics plays a huge part in understanding any illness you may be dealing with.
- Blood Workup: Typically, a blood panel will show that you have excessive amounts of androgens (like Testosterone) in your blood and for most, it will also show that you’ve got lower than normal estrogen.
- Physical Examination: Once the doc has all of the information (s)he needs from you verbally, they will typically start a physical. BMI, Waist Size, and Hair Growth Evaluation is pretty standard. It’s helpful to avoid plucking and waxing a few days before your appointment and let them know when the last time you did was.
- Pelvic Exam: Possibly one of the most invasive parts of experience is the pelvic exams. The doctor will likely try and find out if the ovaries are swollen or if there are cysts that can be felt.
- Ultrasound: An Ultrasound is used to check your ovaries for cysts (also referred to as fibroids). Occasionally, a vaginal ultrasound will be needed. The doctor will be looking to see how thick the lining of your uterus is, too. Which is why a vaginal ultrasound is sometimes the first option.
HORMONE SYMPTOM CHECKLIST
Print the following checklist and take it to your doctor’s appointment to help your doctor determine whether PCOS is something you should be concerned about. This has not been reviewed by a physician, and is meant to serve as a self-assistance tool only. This is not meant to replace, diagnose, treat, or represent any formal medical disorder or illness. Consult your physician regarding your findings.
- I’ve noticed excess hair growth on my face, chest, or arms.
- My skin has been oily or acne-prone, especially alone my jaw and chin.
- I have noticed excess oils on my skin + hair.
- The hair on my head appears to be thinning or falling out excessively.
- I’ve noticed darker skin around areas with folds. (Neck, Armpits, Etc.)
- I’ve been noticing skin tags on my body. (Small, flesh-colored growths of skin.)
- My blood sugar has been spiking / dropping (also known as hyper / hypoglycemia).
- My family or myself have noticed I’ve been more irritable and / or aggressive than usual, typically with unexpected outbursts of irritability.
- I have felt depressed / anxious lately.
- My Menstrual cycles have been irregular, and occurred longer than every 35 days apart.
- I’ve noticed I have a lot of cramping mid-cycle.
- I’m having trouble getting pregnant, or I’ve had regular unprotected sex for more than 3 months without pregnancy.
- My family has a history of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
- I have noticed achy joints very frequently lately.
- I am having trouble staying motivated, and often feel extremely tired.
- I’ve had more than one UTI in the last year.
PMS Pain Scale: Please rate the pain you experience during PMS, 1 being no pain at all and 10 being so painful you cannot walk.
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Period Flow Scale: Please choose on a scale of one to ten, what your flow is typically like. 1 means that you can use “lite” tampons / pads throughout your period, 10 would be using “super” or “super-plus” for the entire period.
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