September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month. Why do we need a whole month about this disease I’ve never heard of Dr. Laura?? Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a hormonal disorder which effects females, intersex, and some transgender individuals. NOT SO FUN FACT: 1 in 10 between the ages of 15-45 have PCOS, but more than 50-70% of those are not even aware!
The ovaries produce too much of a reproductive hormone called androgens, usually present in only small amounts. The development of cysts, and/or excess hormones can cause the ovaries to irregularly release eggs during ovulation, or the egg may not develop as it should.
THE EXACT CAUSE OF PCOS IS UNKNOWN
People of all races and ethnicities are at risk for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. However, your risk of PCOS may be higher if you have a relative with it, or if you are overweight. Symptoms typically present during puberty or their first menstrual period. However, they can display later in life, or after significant weight gain.
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME SYMPTOMS
Irregular periods can lead to infertility. It is an unfortunate factor of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Other PCOS symptoms to watch for:
- Missed, irregular, or prolonged periods
- Painful periods
- Acne, or oily skin
- Thinning scalp hair
- Excess hair growth on face, chin, chest, body
- Weight gain
- Skin tags on neck or armpits
- Darkening skin in the neck, groin, armpit, or under breasts
- Constant or intermittent pelvic or abdominal pain
PCOS IS RUINING MY LIFE!
Polycystic ovary syndrome treatment should be done under the care of your primary care provider. However, many people forget about the after effects of the negative symptoms of PCOS.
This leads to more ill effects with their quality of life, work, intimacy, exercise, friendship, etc. Many times this is due to tension held in the pelvic floor region, a secondary response to symptoms from your condition and the stress it puts on your life.
GETTING YOUR LIFE BACK ON A HEALTHY TRACK
It is important that you exercise at an intensity which is high enough to affect bodily change. Oftentimes people under challenge themselves, and therefore do not burn enough calories at the time of the activity, nor allowing their metabolic rate to stay elevated long enough after working out to continue burning calories. Conversely some patients workout so hard, they can not remain consistent enough to stick with their program. With PCOS you may need to start, or even stay on medications to help you lose or maintain your weight. However, it is of the utmost importance that this is coupled with a healthy diet and adequate daily exercise.
PAINFUL PERIODS or DYSMENORRHEA
Many patients with this concern have wonderful activity levels until their period begins to approach. Then, their activity dwindles and they feel defeated and self conscious as their bloating begins. They disappear from their normal life during this time every month, cutting off from friends and even work if possible. Through physical therapy we work to create a tool box of items to help with their symptoms. Allowing them to continue participating in life.
PELVIC or ABDOMINAL PAIN
PCOS does not itself cause pain, polycystic ovarian syndrome pain is most commonly being driven by the ongoing PCOS symptoms. Due to the stress, the individual is holding their abdominal and/or pelvic muscles in spasm most of the time, attempting to guard themselves from the symptoms. Constantly holding in spasm creates more pain in a vicious cycle.
- Gain awareness of the pelvic floor.
- What is its range of motion?
- When are you tightening versus relaxing?
- How can we start to bring that awareness in throughout the day?
- Identify the tightening, and gently begin to relax it.
Build a targeted home exercise program which typically consists of:
- Dilator therapy
- Restorative yoga
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME IS A LIFELONG HEALTH CONDITION
PCOS is linked to diabetes, gestational diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high and low cholesterol, sleep apnea, stroke, as well as depression and anxiety. Those with polycystic ovarian syndrome often have insulin resistance, their bodies make but do not properly use the insulin. Early diagnosis and treatment, weight loss, and symptom management can reduce the risk of long-term complications
PCOS affects so many parts of an individual, those that we can readily see, as well as things we cannot. Do not suffer in silence. Reach out. Get the help you need and deserve!