- In This Feature
- The Illness
- Diagnosis and Treatment
- The Effects and My Story
- Poly and Me: A Personal Account of Living with PCOS
- Sources and Resources
The Effects and My Story
Though PCOS was first documented 75 years ago, the underlying causes of the disorder are not clear. There is strong evidence for a genetic link. There is no cure for PCOS or pills to end the constant onslaught of symptoms. Certain symptoms of PCOS are treatable, however, and current research has been offering hope to PCOS sufferers. Changing to a low carbohydrate diet works for many women. Taking metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes, has also shown great promise, and many PCOS women are able to ovulate and conceive using a combination of metformin and the fertility drug Clomid. Because of the varying nature of the symptoms, a woman with PCOS may sometimes feel as though she needs a team of doctors: I envision a staff including my gynecologist, reproductive endocrinologist, a therapist, a nutritionist, a dermatologist, and a personal trainer.
Unfortunately, there is no one test used to diagnose PCOS, and numerous disorders and illnesses can cause variations of PCOS symptoms. My doctor solidified PCOS as the diagnosis only after running several tests and then discovering I was insulin resistant (IR)—frequently a precursor to diabetes. The IR also makes losing weight extremely difficult and leads to a feeling of lethargy after meals. PCOS women also have an increased risk for endometrial cancer, heart disease, and diabetes—another good reason to discuss PCOS with your doctor if you have any suspicions about your own health.
While I worry about the possibilities of full-blown diabetes, in my day-to-day life my biggest heartache is unquestionably the infertility issue. My life plan has always included children, and it never occurred to me that I would have problems getting pregnant.
My story is not unusual for a PCOS woman. I saw doctors and discussed my frustration at being unable to conceive, yet instead of trying to diagnose the problem or sending me to a fertility expert, doctor after doctor told me that the core of my problem was my weight. I was on the low border of the technical definition of obesity. I had mild struggles with weight when I was younger, but those problems had ended midway through college and had only seemed to return about the time of my marriage. No one, including me, noticed that my weight problems ended when I went on birth control pills and began again when I stopped taking them. Hormone management had lessened the PCOS symptoms, but no one appreciated it at that time.