by Railah Iqbal
1 in 10 young women suffer from Polycystic ovary syndrome, however, as PCOS Awareness’s survey shows; 3 out 4 sufferers are unaware of it.
PCOS is a hormone imbalance that can cause irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, acne, fertility problems, sudden mood changes and weight gain. PCOS starts as early as during a girl’s teenage years.
Many of my friends suggested that I showed symptoms of PCOS because I have always struggled with maintaining my weight and I have unexpected mood swings. I did not take it too seriously because I thought that I would not delve into until I was considering having children.
The doubts increased when a course of laser treatments to reduce my excessive facial hair had proved ineffective. I took to the internet to look for explanations for the failed treatment and 80% of the sites linked the issues to PCOS. I went for the PCOS test which proved the suspicions right.
My discovery of PCOS was encouraged by Verity; a UK-based charity who supports and advises 6,000 women directly suffering from PCOS related issues.
The relief I feel now is unbelievable because I no longer have to go through umpteen fad diets or pay hundreds of pounds for hair reduction treatment because there is an explanation behind my struggles and Verity have shown me ways of dealing with them.
Rachel Hawkes, Verity’s chairperson, explained that Verity was set up in 1997 as a support network for women suffering from PCOS and it now aims to educate women on PCOS-related issues especially those which people would not generally link to the disorder such as; type two diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, increased risk of heart attacks and unexpected pregnancies.
Rachel said; “It is hugely important that young women understand the importance of PCOS because it is not just fertility condition. Like many of them think they can’t have children because of irregular periods, so don’t use contraception and end up with surprise pregnancies.”
Verity has a team of volunteers running 10 local groups whom give direct advice to sufferers and its webpage has a discussion board where sufferers can advise and relate to one another. There are also yearly conferences, as part of PCOS UK, where medical experts attend to advise people on how to deal with PCOS and the treatments available.
Rachel also unexpectedly discovered she was suffering from the condition. She visited the doctor to discuss her menstrual problems. “I found it so strange when he was asking me about having excessive facial hair and whether I was putting on weight. I thought I have a few on my chin but what is that got to do with my periods?”
When Rachel found out she had PCOS, she was oblivious to what it exactly was. Rachel said; “Not very many people knew about this issue because popular magazines for women like Cosmopolitan had never wrote about it even though a lot of us have it.”
As Rachel has a background in marketing, she joined Verity to help raise awareness about PCOS. Rachel added; “Raising awareness of the related issues will help us make young women medical advocates armed to support one another when dealing with PCOS.”
What causes PCOS?
The disorder, caused by elevated levels of the male hormone testosterone, leads to the ovaries being covered in tiny fluid-filled cysts which causes hormonal imbalance.
What signs do I look for?
- Weight gain and trouble losing weight.
- Extra hair on the face and body. Often women get thicker and darker facial hair and more hair on the chest, belly, and back.
- Thinning hair on the scalp.
- Irregular periods. Often women with PCOS have fewer than nine periods a year. Some women have no periods. Others have very heavy bleeding.
- Fertility problems. Many women who have PCOS have trouble getting pregnant (infertility).
- Depression or mood swings.
What do I do if I think I am suffering from PCOS?
- Go to your doctor right away.
- Look to Verity for advice and support.
- Don’t panic because there is a cure for everybody.