PCOSA Founder Christine Dezarn is interviewed for this article.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a devastating medical condition that affects millions of American women as well as young girls.
Left untreated, the damage can be devastating and lead to infertility or dangerous health problems. Doctors, patients and the government are now pushing for awareness.
Christine Dezarn was frustrated by years of infertility. Then, out of the blue, she gained weight.
“I gained 70 pounds over a period of less than a year without changing my lifestyle and I began to grow facial hair,” said Dezarn.
Christine never made the connection. Then she ran across another woman in a chat room with the same symptoms.
“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is actually the single most common hormonal disorder of women,” said Dr. Ricardo Azziz, reproductive endocrinologist. “It affects one in at least 14 women.”
Yet it’s often missed. Azziz is conducting research on PCOS.
“There are a lot of physicians who don’t clearly understand what Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is and so their patients also don’t know,” said Azziz.
An exact cause isn’t known, but a growing body of evidence suggests insulin resistance plays a role. It triggers an excess production of male hormones, which can result in infertility and more.
“It is linked to an increased risk of diabetes,” said Azziz. “It is linked to increased risk of heart disease. It is linked to an increased risk of obesity.”
Visible symptoms include facial hair growth or hair loss, weight gain and adult acne. Christine Dezarn’s goal: to help women and their doctors connect the dots.
“A woman who experiences facial hair may go to a spa for hair removal. And then, having any kind of reproductive issues, they’ll go to an OBGYN, and for acne they’ll go to a dermatologist,” said Dezarn.
The disorder has been found in girls as young as nine. It also seems to run in families.
“Polycystic ovary syndrome is inherited,” said Azziz. “The mothers are affected, the sisters are affected.”
Three people in Dezarn’s family have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. There is no cure, but medications are available to treat individual symptoms. Diet and exercise are important too. Dezarn’s association offers support.
“PCOS attacks everything that makes a woman feel feminine and sexy,” said Dezarn. “It’s extremely important to make sure that you’ve got a resource to turn to. You’ve got people who care.”
Dezarn takes medication for insulin resistance and has seen most of her symptoms subside, although, she is still dealing with infertility.