by Meg Heald, Blogcritics Magazine
November 20, 2007
“…mention its name to most people and they have no idea what you’re talking about.”
It is a disorder that affects one in ten women. It can occur in women of any race or nationality, causes side-effects which range from inconvenient to crippling, and is the leading cause of infertility among women of reproductive age. Yet mention its name to most people, and they have no idea what you’re talking about.
It’s called PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. And I’ve got it.
No two women appear to experience the disease in the exact same way, so being positive for PCOS can mean many different things. For me, it means I will forever be battling my body for balance. Having PCOS means I’m slightly insulin-resistant, which leads to weight gain and, if not controlled, diabetes. To manage these insulin spikes, I take two different medicines which I will essentially be on for the rest of my life.
I’m actually one of the lucky ones, however, to only deal with insulin resistance. Some of the other side-effects of PCOS can be far more debilitating and tougher to hide. Hirsutism, or unwanted body hair, is a common side-effect, which results in women growing hair on their faces and bodies like men. I’ve seen pictures of twelve-year-old girls with beards full enough to put most men to shame. Other women may suffer alopecia, which results in thinning of the hair on the scalp and, eventually, male-pattern baldness. Skin irritations are another factor, including darker patches on the skin, which are a sign of insulin resistance, and seborrhea, which causes itchy, flaky, red skin.
PCOS can also have long-term side-effects. It can increase the likelihood of cancer, especially endometrial cancer, and can result in infertility or miscarriage. It is connected closely to obesity and diabetes. On top of everything, there is no cure. Once determined PCOS-positive, all a woman can do is treat the symptoms and hope for balance.