Approximately one in ten women is diagnosed with PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is seen by doctors primarily as a risk factor for developing other diseases. Although it is so common, the diagnosis is unknown to many Swedes.
At present, not much is known about the exact mechanisms behind PCOS, other than that it appears to be genetic.
– There is a hereditary component to it all. This means that you produce more male sex hormones than other women. The balance becomes skewed. It leads to various consequences in the body, says Helena Kopp Kallner, gynecologist and chief physician at Danderyd hospital, in Nyhetsmorgon.
The gynecologist explains that those affected by PCOS also find it more difficult to reduce sensitivity to insulin and that the factors together produce different consequences in the body; among other things, that ovulation often does not occur or becomes very sparse.
– You get more male tendencies in how the pubic hair looks. Some even develop stubble on and under the chin. Those are the main symptoms, says Helena Kopp Kallner.
Kristina Stojanovic received her diagnosis three years ago, after she stopped using hormonal contraceptives. The period came to be delayed for a full 60 days and she suffered severe acne breakouts.
– It was only when I spoke to a woman who had similar symptoms, but also fertility problems, that I became very worried and sought care, says Kristina, who had never heard of PCOS before.
She went to a gynecologist and told her about her problems. The doctor discovered cysts or immature follicles on the ovaries.
– What does it mean for my future? I became very worried. It was not obvious that I would be able to have children. That particular fear was there every now and then, says Kristina.
Helena Kopp Kallner tells us that PCOS sufferers actually have a great chance of having children, especially late in life because they have a lot of eggs – but that complications can accompany a pregnancy.
Being overweight worsens the symptoms and causes you to have even more irregular periods. In order to overcome the problems, lifestyle changes are therefore often required, eating regularly and keeping blood sugar in balance. PCOS symptoms can also be alleviated by stress management.
– I learned this on my own with lifestyle factors. It was the least I could do for myself. This way I got control of the acne and a more regular cycle. Then I also had children, says Kristina.
Higher risk of heart disease
But if you are to be able to mitigate your symptoms, you need to know what it is you are affected by – and a diagnosis is important for many reasons.
– You have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes type 2. There are more complications in connection with entering a pregnancy with a higher weight. There are complications in connection with pregnancy and childbirth, says Helena Kopp Kallner.
– It’s not just that it’s hair and acne and irregular periods. This is something that you need to regulate throughout your life, continues the gynecologist.
However, PCOS is not only negative. As the woman gets more testosterone, it is also easier for her to build muscle. Doctors see that there are many successful sportswomen who have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.