In this episode of the Progress Your Health Podcast, we are going to talk about PCOS. I know our last podcast was, PCOS, Questions to Ask your Doctor. We are still going strong on our PCOS information. But we are going to do things a little different than we have. We are going to do a five-part podcast series about PCOS.
- What PCOS Looks Like: What is it? (this podcast)
- How PCOS Can Be Detected: Testing and Diagnosis for PCOS
- Which Type of PCOS Am I?: Classic
- Which Type of PCOS Am I?: Common
- Which Type of PCOS Am I?: Concealed
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It is not a disease but considered a syndrome. From the name, polycystic ovarian syndrome, it is easy to assume there are multiple cysts on the ovaries. But in fact, many women with PCOS do not have multiple cysts or any ovarian cysts. As a general statement, in PCOS, there are hormonal imbalances that can cause unwanted symptoms and conditions. That is why we consider it more of a spectrum as some women can have nearly most of the criteria of PCOS and other just a few symptoms.
What are the Hormonal Imbalances present in PCOS?
- In PCOS, one of the hallmarks are elevated levels of androgens: testosterone and DHEA. A lot of time these can range from high normal to over the reference lab values.
- DHEA: comes from the adrenal glands
- Testosterone is from conversion from DHEA, ovaries and other peripheral tissues
- Progesterone levels from the ovaries are low to none
- Thyroid function can be low
- Elevated insulin
- Cortisol diurnal release is degraded.
Common PCOS Symptoms:
Multiple Ovarian Cysts:
- Just like the name states: Polycystic ovarian syndrome, there can be multiple cysts on the ovaries.
- It is normal and common to get small follicular cysts during our cycle.
- But in PCOS there can be actual cysts that stay on the ovaries almost indefinitely.
- While as the name states, polycystic. Many women with PCOS do not have cysts on their ovaries.
- Irregular or lack of a period.
- In PCOS, there can be missed periods. Some women might miss a period or two in a year. And others can miss their period for up to six months or more. But of course, the goal is to balance the hormones, so the cycle is regulated and not painful or heavy.
- Some women that have PCOS can have reduced ovulation to no ovulation, impacting their fertility. This is always a big concern when a woman gets the diagnosis of PCOS.
- Most complained about and frustrating symptoms of PCOS. It is very easy to gain weight. Women can have the best diet and exercise regime and still notice that they are gaining weight. Also, because of the easy weight gain, it can be very hard to try and lose with PCOS.
- Cystic and deep
- Located more on the chin and jawline area
- Neck and back as well.
- Specifically, due to the elevated levels of testosterone and DHEA.
High Blood Pressure:
- This can be a combination of the adrenals and elevated insulin. Not everyone has high blood pressure with PCOS. Remember, PCOS is a spectrum of symptoms. But blood pressure is important to consider and monitor when looking at PCOS.
- Higher levels of testosterone and DHEA can make you, “testy” (no pun intended). But the combination of hormonal imbalances such as lower progesterone, higher insulin, cortisol disruptions can really cause a “short fuse.”
- The higher levels of testosterone and DHEA without the buffering effect of the progesterone. Will cause ‘androgen derived’ hair loss. You usually will see it in the temples and top of the head.
- While the hair on the head can thin and fall out in PCOS, and there can be hair growth elsewhere.
- Face, upper lip, and chin.
- Under the chin and neck
- Chest and belly
Now, remember, we are humans. And humans grow hair. It is perfectly normal to have hair growth on your body. I have a couple of chin hairs that pluck every so often. And my ethnic background means I shave my legs pretty often. But in PCOS the hair growth is a little more descript. Also called hirsutism is to a higher degree. The hair is dark and coarse, and there is more of it on the body. This is usually attributed to the higher levels of testosterone and DHEA.
Thank you for being a part of our Progress Your Health Community! Stay tuned for the next episode of our five-part series on PCOS: How PCOS Can Be Detected.