I’ve been reading Hillary Wright’s book The PCOS Diet Plan. Her book begins with a breakdown of PCOS, what it is, what causes it, and some of it’s history. I thought today I would share some of that history with you along with some statistics that may help you to understand why this condition has such an impact on my life, and the life of all women who suffer from the syndrome.
Lets start with a little history! According to Wright, the first mention of PCOS was over 150 years ago, by doctors in France. In 1845 they described “polycystic-appearing ovaries”. There were a few cases reported in the early 1900’s and some women underwent a procedure called ‘wedge restriction’, where a section of the ovary was removed in order to control cyst growth. It wasn’t until 1935, when 2 gynecologists, Stein and Leventhal, linked several symptoms together, that the condition was actually named. Even today, the syndrome is often referred to as Stein-Leventhal syndrome.
So, how do you get a diagnosis? Well, there is still some confusion among medical experts as to the true critera for a diagnosis of PCOS, but basically, a woman must present at least 2 of the 3 following symptoms: hyperandrogenism (either visible symptoms or blood tests showing excess androgens); Ovarian dysfunction (inconsistent periods, infertility ect…); cysts on ovaries that are visible on an ultrasound. It is also imperative that you have been tested for all other androgen excess, metabolic, and hormonal disorders and they were excluded. Having at least 2 of these symptoms means that you have ‘Classic PCOS’ (I have all 3 😦 ). It is possible to be diagnosed with only one of the symptoms, however its highly unlikely that a doctor would consider PCOS if you only have one symptom. The reason it is possible, is because, although PCOS is a lifelong illness, it presents itself differently throughout ones life. What I mean, is that treating some of the symptoms may subdue other symptoms, and therefore they might not present themselves at the time of diagnosis. An example would be losing weight. Excess weight gain, and inability to lose it easily is a symptom (caused by all three of the main criteria symptoms above), and losing it, often times, stabilizes hyperandrogenism and ovarian dysfunction. It doesn’t mean that you no longer have PCOS, you are not cured, however you are controlling your symptoms which means, essentially, they go away. Believe me, its easier said that done, but it is one example of a woman with PCOS who may not fit nice and neat into the diagnostic criteria. The point is, the only thing you may be presenting is the belief that something just isn’t right. Its mainly for this reason that alot of women go undiagnosed, either because they don’t tell their doctor or because their doctor doesn’t have enough information to formulate the diagnosis. So, that being said, we can add a fourth criteria for diagnosis, FAMILY HISTORY. Since we know that PCOS is a complex genetic disorder, providing a detailed personal, and family history can definitely help your doctor to determine if its the right diagnosis for you.
Here are a few stats to end my lesson for the day:
- PCOS is the most common female hormonal disorder. It is the main cause of infertility caused by inconsistant ovulation
- PCOS affects somewhere between 5-10% of all women (usually showing up during their reproductive years, but lately there is an onset of younger and younger girls showing symptoms)
- Up to 30% of women may show some symptoms of PCOS
- Anywhere from 50-80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese (yes, you CAN be skinny and still have PCOS)
- Women with PCOS are seven times more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes than other women in their age group, and 30-40% of PCOS suffers are considered ‘pre-diabetic’ (insulin resistant)
- It is estimated that upwards of 10% of all women with PCOS will develop full-blown diabetes by the age of 40 (eek :s)
- Heart attacks are 4-7 times more likely for women with PCOS when compared to women of their same age without the condition
- Women with PCOS are at a high risk for endometrial cancer. Because of inconsistent periods, the lining of the uterus can build-up over time because it isn’t being shed consistantly each month. This build-up is called endometrial hyperplasia and it increases the risk of endometrial cancer. Hyperinsulinemia (elevated levels of insulin in the blood, from being insulin resistant), which is common to PCOS sufferers, encourages the growth of cancer cells, increasing the risk of endometrial cancer. It is estimated that, if left untreated, as many as 30% of PCOS women with endometrial hyperplasia will develop endometrial cancer– SCARY STUFF
- Women with PCOS are 3 times more likely to miscarry than women without the disorder, and if a pregnancy is successful, it is often plagued with problems like gestational diabetes.
Thankfully we have people like Hillary Wright to help shed some light on a very confusing and stressful syndrome. As more and more women talk about whats going on, it should help the progression of the medical field in doing research and finding solutions, and maybe even a cure!!!
Thanks for reading my novel hahaha, take care everyone!
I’m Happy, I’m Healthy, I’m Fertile, ttfn, xo