Some health observances garner a lot of attention. We often see them promoted by celebrities in television commercials, print ads and radio spots. Other health observances, meanwhile are lesser known to the masses. But for those struggling with such diseases and conditions, advocacy and observance is what you crave.
September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month. I first learned about this condition in 2012 through a friend, Sara, who was open enough to share with me her struggle and our dialogue prompted me to explore this condition for a final presentation in a master’s-level course. Sara took the time to educate me on PCOS, common misconceptions about the condition and how she felt health professionals could have provided better information.
Joan L. Moon, EdD, CNM, RN and former featured guest in this HealthComU post, describes PCOS as a condition that “can result from ovaries having a thickened endometrial lining due to overstimulation by estrogen. Partially stimulated eggs form cysts and ovulation does not occur. Infertility and excess body hair are also symptoms of PCOS. Women with PCOS are often obese, but not always. They produce more androgen hormones than women without the condition including testosterone from the adrenal glands, body fat, and ovaries. Decreasing excess body fat, and controlling blood sugar and insulin levels can help alleviate PCOS.”
Sara’s journey with PCOS began shortly after marriage. She wanted to get pregnant, but knew her cycles were irregular. She went to see her physician and was quickly diagnosed with PCOS. She did not have cysts on her ovaries, but she had other symptoms like thinning hair, irregular periods, skin tags, hirsutism (unwanted hair growth in women on the face or body), and decreased sex drive. The doctor told Sara she had a “classic” case but gave little other information to help her cope with the diagnosis. While she was anxious to be pregnant, she also wanted help with the other symptoms, fand she felt like doctors pushed those needs aside. She felt depressed and anxious but was told met with comments that it was simply an effect of not being able to conceive. She knew it was more. Years later, she followed the advice of a friend to see an endocrinologist and saw positive changes in her symptoms.
Now, 11 years later, Sara has seen an increase in the number of support groups and websites to help those with PCOS. Still, many people don’t realize that a significant majority of women with PCOS have never been diagnosed, or even realize they have it, let alone understand that there are serious problems that can accompany PCOS like high-blood pressure, insulin-resistance type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. As someone living with PCOS, Sara wants clinical professionals to shine more light on the subject–sharing all risks and potential problems, available options and information while not giving women a false sense of hope for an easy fix. Early diagnosis and proper education can help women live healthier lives and lower the risks associated with PCOS.