Thursday, September 29, 2011

PCOS: How Does PCOS Affect Women?

Poster by Amanda Kohn, www.implementingdesignism.org
We've just started a new series on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in honor of September, PCOS Awareness Month. 

In the first entry, we discussed its definition and symptoms, and why PCOS is somewhat controversial in fat-acceptance circles. 

In this post, we're going to describe how PCOS affects women, how if often develops and presents, and how it can affect women down the line as they age. 

In later posts, we will discuss testing and diagnostic issues, its effects on fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and give more details on how it affects menopause and aging. 

Readers should know that we'll be doing this mostly from a size-acceptance point of view, rather than the usual "you have to diet" point of view present in most PCOS websites.  Weight loss will be discussed as only one possible treatment ─ with an honest look at the potential benefits and drawbacks of weight loss as treatment ─ but other alternatives will be emphasized.

What Does PCOS Look Like?

As one article puts it, "Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a clinically, histologically, and biochemically heterogeneous condition."  Translation: PCOS presents in each woman a little bit differently.

The Classic Presentation

The classic case is a woman who:
  • is quite heavy
  • has very irregular or totally absent periods
  • has facial hair growth on her upper lip and/or chin (and often elsewhere)
  • has dark patches of skin in various places on her body
  • has skin issues, with cystic acne well into adulthood
  • struggles with infertility issues
  • has trouble getting or staying pregnant
  • probably gained a lot of unexplained weight at some point
  • has struggled with her weight ever since, often yo-yoing up and down chronically
  • has slightly enlarged ovaries with many cysts on them
  • has health issues such as glucose intolerance/diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood pressure concerns
Women like these are fairly easy to diagnose with PCOS because their symptoms are so clear.  The main markers looked for in PCOS (irregular periods, physical signs of too many androgens, and cystic ovaries) are obviously present. 

Sadly, however, even women with obvious cases of PCOS often go undiagnosed. It's very common for these women to see many doctors for their symptoms before someone realizes what is going on.  Too often, her weight is blamed as the source of her symptoms and all other possibilities are ignored.  Sometimes, the woman figures out her PCOS status on her own from the internet or a friend, and only then can she get the testing she needs.

Although Stein and Leventhal first "discovered" this condition in 1935, it has taken a long time for doctors to really take it seriously.  It is only in the last 10-20 years or so that awareness of it has really taken off.  Even so, many providers still just want to blame the woman for being fat and not look deeper for other possible mechanisms.  They view fatness as the cause, and refuse to believe fatness could merely be a symptom of a deeper problem instead.

Variations in Presentation

Of course, not every case of PCOS follows this classic profile.  If it's hard for women with very obvious symptoms of PCOS to get diagnosed, imagine how hard it is for someone whose case is more subtle!

For example, not all women with PCOS are fat. Some women with PCOS are average-sized ─ but still have very strong issues with insulin resistance and fertility (like actress Emma Thompson). It is unknown why some women with PCOS have weight issues and others do not. It's probably not due to differences in eating patterns but rather to some unknown metabolic difference.  Whatever the reason, it can be hard for the skinny woman with PCOS to get diagnosed.

But generally speaking, a lot of women with PCOS have very significant weight issues. The usual statistic quoted is that 50-60% of women with PCOS are "obese" ─ but because many doctors underdiagnose the condition in fat women, it's possible the percentage may actually be higher.

Hirsutism is extremely common in women with PCOS (some sites estimate it is present in 70-80%), but not every woman experiences it.  Some have only a little body hair and no facial hair, yet because doctors really look for facial hair as a sign of androgen excess, women without this classic sign are sometimes told they don't have PCOS, despite other pertinent symptoms.

Thinning scalp hair is much less common than hirsutism as a symptom, but is often overlooked as a potential sign of androgen excess.  And because many women find ways to cover this up or are too embarrassed to mention it to their doctors, it is underused as a symptom for diagnosis.

Fertility is another symptom that can vary.  Many women with PCOS have significant fertility issues, yet not all do. For some, it's closely tied to co-morbidities like hypothyroidism; if they treat that, fertility is less of an issue.  Sometimes, fertility for PCOS women is okay in younger years but declines over time, so some only develop infertility later on as the condition progresses.

Although some doctors consider fertility issues central to the diagnosis of PCOS, some women show clear skin and metabolic symptoms of PCOS yet never have problems conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy. Still, they may benefit greatly from treatment of the metabolic issues of PCOS, so many providers have begun to expand their definition of PCOS beyond  its past focus on infertility.

Clearly, the heterogeneous nature of PCOS means that there are many gray areas in diagnosis.

How Does PCOS Develop?

PCOS tends to run in families, and can come from either side of the family (mother or father). If lots of women in your family struggle with their weight, have irregular periods, diabetes, hypertension, and other common consequences of PCOS, the chances that you might have PCOS are higher.  Or if the males in your family have lots of premature balding and metabolic syndrome, this may also indicate a familial predisposition towards PCOS.  However, it takes a combination of genetic and environmental factors for PCOS to manifest itself, so not every family member is always affected.  Family history is a clue, not an automatic indication.

Often PCOS first presents a few years after periods begin (although some with very severe cases may show symptoms like acanthosis nigricans and significant fatness even well before puberty). Typically, menstruation begins normally, but within a few years, periods begin to skip here and there. Eventually, menstrual issues worsen; some develop long cycles (more than 35 days), some develop erratic cycles, some skip whole sets of periods, while the most severe cases stop cycling completely.

At some point most women with PCOS develop secondary skin-related symptoms like hirsutism, thinning hair, or significant acne (especially boil-like sebaceous cysts under the skin).  These can be quite distressing socially, so this is often when these women begin to seek medical answers, often without success.

It's not unusual for many woman with PCOS to experience a significant, unexplainable weight gain ─ with no change in habits ─ in her late teens or twenties (and sometimes later too); this is often despite similar caloric intakes as women without PCOS.  As one website notes:
Approximately 60% of women with PCOS have weight management issues which can lead to obesity with only normal caloric intake. Energy in the form of glucose (food) is stored right away as fat, instead of being made available for other functions within the body. This can lead to chronic fatigue and undernourishment, despite the fact that there is adequate food intake and even an appearance of overnourishment. 
Those with the most severe cases of PCOS may become supersized because of a vicious cycle of insulin resistance and yo-yo dieting. High levels of insulin in the blood lead to weight gain, so women diet to lose weight, only to regain to an even higher weight as the body's metabolism reasserts itself. Concurrent hypothyroidism can greatly exacerbate this gain. Some women develop eating disorders (compulsive overeating or binge eating disorder) as a result of years of dieting, and many experience very strong carb cravings due to hyperinsulinemia. Thus it can be difficult to untie the influence of insulin issues, yo-yo dieting, eating issues, and disease co-morbidities on weight, but there is often a synergistic effect of all of them together.

In some women, PCOS symptoms accelerate and worsen with time. Those with the most severe cases usually have great difficulty conceiving, often develop diabetes and/or high blood pressure in their twenties or thirties, struggle with sleep apnea and other complications, and become "super obese" at some point from a combination of factors. Co-morbidities like sleep apnea are common, and as a result, many get so desperate they resort to bariatric surgery to try and mitigate their symptoms, regain some mobility, or have a chance at pregnancy.

In other women, the symptoms stay relatively mild throughout their life or progress much more slowly. Often, normal blood sugar and blood pressure are maintained for years, and the only signs of metabolic derangement are subtle differences in labs; a tendency towards weight gain, reactive hypoglycemia and/or gestational diabetes; and skin symptoms (like sebaceous cysts, acne, or thinning hair).  However, the symptoms often worsen significantly around or just after menopause, and many are diagnosed with issues like hypertension or diabetes at this time. 

A lot depends on the woman's pancreatic beta-cell function. If the pancreas is capable of producing enough insulin to compensate for the insulin resistance in the body, blood sugar remains in the normal range. In those whose beta cell function is compromised, the body is not able to produce enough insulin to overcome the insulin resistance and diabetes develops early.

Some women think that as long as their blood sugar and blood pressure is fine and they don't want children, PCOS is not a big worry.  However, just because blood sugar is normal doesn't mean the body is okay; it still has to deal with the side effects of too much insulin and too many androgens in the body.  And over the years, this can take a toll, even on those with milder cases.

How Does PCOS Affect Long-Term Health?

As women with PCOS age, the metabolic consequences of years of hyperinsulinemia and excess androgens begin to accrue.

Although you might expect that PCOS symptoms would disappear after the ovaries shut down at menopause, many find that some symptoms actually worsen after menopause instead.

Hirsutism on the face may get even worse, and the hair may thin even more than before. Acne doesn't go away, and problems like sleep apnea may worsen.

Chronic overproduction of insulin also tends to lead to hypertension over time, and it exhausts the pancreas. Therefore even those who had relatively good pancreatic beta cell function and normal blood sugar and blood pressure for years tend to develop diabetes and hypertension as they age.

This means that PCOS has life-long health implications.  The tendency towards blood sugar, insulin resistance, blood pressure issues and perhaps an increased rate of clotting means that vascular disease often develops.  Many women with PCOS develop heart disease, and may also have a tendency towards stroke.

High levels of androgens may also be connected to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  One study found more than three times the risk for NAFLD in women with PCOS, even after controlling for BMI and other factors. Higher androgen levels are thought to be the culprit but this still remains speculative.

Cancer is another potential risk.  If the woman does not cycle regularly, the uterine lining can build up and endometrial hyperplasia (overgrowth) can develop.  Unchecked, this can lead to a higher chance of endometrial cancer.  PCOS is clearly associated with a higher risk for endometrial cancer.

Is PCOS connected to the development of other cancers?  Some research ties PCOS to a higher rate of ovarian cancer, but research on this is contradictory and unclear. In addition, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia may be tied to a stronger risk for colo-rectal cancer. Many researchers speculate that the relatively high rate of unopposed estrogen in PCOS may increase the risk for postmenopausal breast cancer too, although nothing has really been proven at this point.

The connection between PCOS and these different cancers is still being untangled and answers are far from definitive, but clearly there is an increased risk for endometrial cancer at the very least.

Psychological Effects of PCOS

Psychologically, PCOS is a brutal condition.

In its most severe form, a woman is stripped of nearly everything that society sees as womanly, a "theft of womanhood," as some sources call it. She probably is very fat, balding, has a mustache or other facial hair, has acne and body tags, doesn't cycle regularly, and has difficulty having children.  She is seen as sexually unattractive, epitomizes the image of the "ugly" woman in our society, and is the object of many jokes and much derision in the media.  Is it any wonder some women find this condition incredibly demoralizing?

Adding into this is the lack of understanding around PCOS as a condition.  Even when you have an official diagnosis, some friends and family consider it a dubious finding.  In their view, you're just looking for an excuse for being fat, crying about how your "bad metabolism" causes your obesity, instead of taking responsibility for your supposedly poor eating. They roll their eyes or accuse you of closet binge-eating instead.

Doctors often don't believe you if you tell them you eat normally either, thinking you must be in denial about your eating, or that you are too uneducated about "proper" nutrition to really understand how to eat healthy.  Furthermore, the shopping cart and food intake of a woman with PCOS are under continuous scrutiny and criticism, adding constant stress to daily life.  The "obese" woman with PCOS always feels on the defensive about her food or exercise habits.

This disbelief about their experiences and the burden of constant surveillance often takes a considerable toll on PCOS women's self-esteem. And for those who truly do struggle with eating disorders after years of dieting, the shame around dealing with that on top of PCOS can be overwhelming.

Some resources list depression and/or anxiety as one of the possible side-effects of PCOS.  It's not clear whether the tendency towards this has a physiological basis, is merely a by-product of mistreatment by society, or is a combination of both. Since many women with PCOS tend to have borderline hypothyroidism (and depression can be a symptom of hypothyroidism), there may be a good argument for a physiological basis.  On the other hand, the harassment that women with PCOS receive in society could cause anyone to feel anxious or depressed. Or there may be a synergistic effect between the two.

Either way, there is no doubt that it is very difficult to be a woman with PCOS in our society. Yet the situation is not without hope.  Many women with PCOS are able to develop a sense of peace with their body, an inner strength to help overcome the biases superimposed by society.  Women with PCOS can be strong and assertive and body-positive; it isn't easy with negative messages all around, but it is possible..

Conclusions

Clearly, PCOS is a difficult condition that deserves to be taken more seriously. 

Knowledge about PCOS is evolving, but not all care providers are familiar with this condition. Some don't believe it really exists, some believe it's far more about being fat than about metabolic abnormalities, some apply too-stringent diagnostic criteria, while others diagnose it without ruling out other possibilities first. Therefore it can be very difficult to get an accurate diagnosis.

Unfortunately, there's no one "official" test you can take that will tell you that you do or don't have PCOS. Often diagnosis is less than clear-cut because of co-morbidities and the variability of symptoms.

So even if you've been told that you don't have PCOS, you might simply be at a less severe level on the PCOS spectrum ─ not severe enough for diagnosis, but not clearly "normal" either. Or you might have a phenotype that your doctor did not recognize.  Or you might have something that looks like PCOS but is actually caused by another condition.  Or you might not have PCOS at all.

Sometimes the answers are elusive and what you are told will vary from provider to provider.  This is why it's important to keep asking questions, keep searching for a really good provider, always get copies of your labs and tests, and keep a file of them over the years.  It's not uncommon for it to take multiple visits for this condition to get recognized, for testing to be done (or interpreted) incorrectly, or for an optimal treatment plan to be developed.  Persistence and good record-keeping is very important.

In the past, some doctors viewed PCOS as a concern only if you wanted to get pregnant, but research indicates it has significant life-long health implications, including higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and some types of cancer later in life. 

Because of its implications for long-term health, PCOS deserves to be taken seriously, regardless of the patient's age or whether or not they want children. It needs to be seen as a life-long condition, not just a concern tied to pregnancy.

In the next entry in this series on PCOS, we will talk more about the testing and diagnosis of PCOS. Stay tuned for further entries about PCOS in the future as well.


References

*Trigger Warning: Not all resources/studies listed here are size-friendly but are listed because they may have some other valuable information or resources.  Approach with caution.

General Information and Support for Women with PCOS

www.pcosupport.org
www.soulcysters.com

Genetics and PCOS
PCOS and Dietary Intake

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Aug;28(8):1026-32. Dietary intake, physical activity, and obesity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Wright CE, Zborowski JV, Talbott EO, McHugh-Pemu K, Youk A.  PMID: 15159768
"Although women with PCOS had a higher BMI than control women, an overall comparison of women with and without PCOS showed no significant difference in dietary intake. However, stratification by BMI revealed that lean women with PCOS reported significantly lower energy intake than lean women without PCOS.  CONCLUSION: Differences in dietary intake and physical activity alone are not sufficient to explain differences in weight between women with and without PCOS."
Gynecol Endocrinol. 2011 May 24. Diet composition and physical activity in overweight and obese premenopausal women with or without polycystic ovary syndrome. Alvarez-Blasco F, et al.  PMID: 21609197
"We aimed to find differences in diet and life-style that might contribute to the development of PCOS among overweight or obese premenopausal women. We compared diet composition and self-reported physical activity among 22 patients with PCOS and 59 women without androgen excess recruited from a total of 113 consecutive premenopausal women reporting for management of weight excess. After correcting for a difference in age between women with PCOS and controls, there were no overall statistical significant differences between them in the total caloric intake, in the intake of macro- and micro-nutrients, caffeine, fiber and alcohol, in the proportion of women exercising regularly, or in the number of hours of exercise per week. The proportion of fat in the diets of the overweight and obese women irrespective of PCOS was well-above current recommendations, yet this excessive fat intake occurred at the expense of monounsaturated fatty acids mostly. In conclusion, diet composition and physical activity were apparently not decisive for the development of PCOS among overweight and obese premenopausal women."
PCOS and Psychological Effects


PCOS and Long-Term Health Risks

16 comments:

Kate said...

Thank you for this post. I've been told I have PCOS, though never diagnosed through testing and it's also never been treated.

Is there a correlation between PCOS and a hypothyroid condition? I had very irregular cycles, which my doctors blamed on fatness, only to have them normalize 100% when I was started on thyroid meds. My thryoid numbers were subclinical, but my symptoms were definitely not and it took about four years of nagging to even get treated. (BTW, I tested positive for Hashimoto's once I stopped taking Humira, not on point, but people should know.)

Do you think treatment for PCOS is required? I'd like to have a baby and my clock is definitely winding down, I had given up at one point due to my irregular cycles, but I'm hoping for a late in life rally. And if you think treatment is necessary, what is the best course of treatment? (I realize you are not a doctor and understand if you don't want to give such advice, but if you could maybe give us a heads up of optimal versus sub-optimal treatments, that'd be great.)

Cricket said...

I have to say that this is one of the most comprehensive articles I've seen about PCOS and it really encompasses a lot of the difficulties that all women who live with PCOS face. It is a difficult condition with too many variables to pigeon-hole. I'm looking forward to the rest of your series!

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Cricket, thank you for your kind words. You're right, one of the hard things about PCOS is that it's so variable.

Kate, the next post in this series is on testing and diagnosis, and then soon after that I'll do a couple of blog posts about treatment options. We will discuss a wide variety of options. But you can check out some of the website links if you'd like to read up on the possibilities sooner.

Yes, there's a correlation between PCOS and hypothyroidism. (That's another entry in the series.) Not every woman with PCOS has hypothyroidism, but there's a higher rate than in the general population. If your cycles normalized once the thyroid was treated, the question remains whether you have other PCOS symptoms still or not. If so, you probably have PCOS too. But it could be "just" hypothyroidism alone if you don't have any other symptoms or everything resolved with thyroid meds.

My cycles were irregular too until I started thyroid meds, and then they normalized with the meds. If that had been it, it wouldn't have necessarily been PCOS. But because I still have some symptoms of PCOS, even while my thyroid numbers are normal with treatment, that means I have both PCOS and hypothyroidism.

But yes, anecdotally, there's a lot of crossover between PCOS and hypothyroidism. Many women with PCOS have borderline hypothyroidism, and a lot of the PCOS symptoms lessen when that hypothyroidism is treated. Certainly was true for me at least.

Ashley said...

Seconding what Cricket said. I loved the explanation of how insulin resistance leads to constant hunger, fatigue, and undernourishment. People don't believe me when I talk about the "soul-crushing hunger" or that that was the most distressing symptom. Even my doctors didn't mention the fatigue and hunger. Some days i feel like the only woman with PCOS who experienced that.

For the record, my labs are just barely into clinical levels and I have minimal signs of androgens, but my IR symptoms were debilitating. I'm just so grateful I got the diagnosis and treatment.

Anonymous said...

This is a great article. Thank you. I wish this info had been better known years ago.
I want to add that sometimes PCOS makes it difficult to tell if you've been through menopause. If you're hardly having periods, how do you know when they cease altogether? If you don't get hot flashes and your moods cycle as they did before menopause, well, let's say it's hard to tell the before-and-after difference.

Mulberry

Orodemniades said...

Fantastic article.

As a headless death fatty I've always found it incredibly frustrating that no doctor (or my mother, or nutritionist, etc, etc) has ever believed me when I tell them how much I eat. I've even recorded it on the computer, but that's just not been good enough.

personally I'm convinced that my Thyroid is doing some shenanigans, but the tests always come back as 'normal'...

copypinkleader said...

Now can we just get this information out to doctors? It took years for my diagnosis despite me having very typical pcos symptoms. They all told me it was weight related, even a gynaecologist who misread my bloods. It was only when I saw an endocrinologist that I finally got diagnosed and found someone who listened to me instead of talking at me about how all my issues were because I was fat and if I'd just go on a diet my periods would stabilise, the hairiness would disappear etc.

Sara A. said...

I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 18. Every now and again women's magazines take up a cause and every single one of them writes an article about a single disease or problem, like how the June issues all have the Skin Cancer Special. That year, it was all PCOS. After reading three articles on it, I felt pretty sure that that was me. So the next time I was home from college, I showed my mom an article and she made an appointment for me at her endocrinologist.

Throughout high school I gained a lot of weight going from a size 12 and about 160lbs to a size 18-20 and 200lbs in about 2 years and despite very little change in habits. I also had a hairy upper lip (still do) and acne. My period has always been regular like clockwork, but I have a mother with diabetes type 2 and a grandmother with hypertension. That was enough for the doctor to order blood work.

We found that I have high testosterone and androgen levels present in the blood and no blood sugar issues. She prescribed me some birth control pills to regulate my hormones and told me to come back in 6 months.

So it's eight years later and I still have the same problems. I'm off hormonal birth control now because I find the pills effect my mood and my thinking. I am worried about how this is effecting my PCOS, but I feel so much better mentally that it becomes much less of an issue. I feel more even keeled without the hormone pill. On it my moods were much more extreme, the highs were higher and the lows were lower. It also evaporated my sexual appetite and made touch nigh unbearable. I'm just so sick of trying to find the right pill for me and spending three or four months feeling crazy, or having my body shape completely change, or gaining weight, or losing weight, or having the slightest touch tickle or hurt that I don't even want to go there anymore. I'll just deal with myself.

solutions tohealth said...

Some of the bodily changes like excess hair growth and acne that are visible externally might bring about a disturbing effect on the person's mental health also. With the guidance of an efficient health care provider and changes in the lifestyle, an individual can learn to regain confidence in oneself.

kanika verma said...

Hi, i have been recently diagnosed with PCOS. my menstrual cycle has highly irregular for quite some time. but fortunately my thyroid tests show normal patterns which is a great relief. i am not yet married and reading all this about PCOS gave me goosebumps about what my life could be. i keep pretty depressed about it and have been facing frequent mood swings offlately. however my doctor has told me that regular exercise, right medicines and keeping a tab on what i eat can help me a great deal. also, i came across an article online which said that 3-5% of reduction in my weight can reduce the disease by 40-50 folds. i wish all the women out there dealing with PCOS all the very best and a healthy future. It might be a little tough but not impossible for sure. and lastly many thanks for such a brilliant article to the well-rounded mama! Cheers!!!

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Kanika, I'm sorry you've been diagnosed with PCOS. Many of us are in this boat and it's no fun. But you can get through this. Many of us have very good lives despite dealing with PCOS.

As far as weight loss helping with PCOS, some women find that it does, particularly giving fertility a quick boost. However, weight loss comes with downsides. Research shows that the weight nearly always comes back if you follow it long enough, and often you end up heavier than when you began. That's NOT going to help the PCOS.

Also the studies that find that wt loss helps PCOS don't last very long, and they don't distinguish between the effects of things like more exercise vs. the actual wt loss. Many people find that they get all the benefits if they focus more on the increased exercise and lowering carb intake. For some, doing that will result in some wt loss, which is fine. For others, it won't lead to wt loss but it will help reduce PCOS symptoms.

You have to decide what's right for you. If you want to pursue wt loss, it's your body. But keep in mind that you CAN work on symptoms and being healthy without having to emphasize wt loss. Consider a Health At Every Size approach too.

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Forgot to add that I'm going to continue the PCOS series again soon. Stay tuned to the blog for more specifics about PCOS treatments.

Citrius said...

I was diagnosed with PCOD when i was 11 , as i started menses when i was 9 . Eveyday is tough battle. i have all the physical symptoms - hirituism , acnae , thinning of scalp hair , irregular periods and i am highly overweight .

What troubles me the most is that i feel unhappy most of the time . In my teenage inspite of having physical symptoms i used to feel confident and positive in life so i had friends and an outgoing and charming personality which covered up for me for being not conventionally pretty .
over a period of time i have become depressed and lonely . i dnt understand how people are happy or feel happy . i feel a total disconnect from people around me even my mother .
My psychological and mental status is such that i cannot do anything properly , lack focus and concentration but waste alot of time .
i don't know whether my psychological and mental health is due to PCOD or excess weight and lack of self esteem .
also i absolutely have no sexual drive which often makes me frustrated because i am attracted to the opposite gender but fail to become friends with new people and sustain or even develop a new relationship . i am sexually frustrated too because i dnt get any vaginal discharge - its been 3 years . i m confused , can it be due to PCOD ?

i am a mess currently but i want things to improve for me because i know i have potential which is going waste .

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Citrius, I'm sorry you've been having such a hard time. Please consider having your thyroid levels tested. Don't just accept their judgment of "normal" -- look into your exact levels and what their cutoffs where. Hypothyroidism is highly correlated with depression in many people.

Many women with PCOS have subclinical hypothyroidism, where the TSH numbers are somewhat elevated but not yet above the cutoff, but still have strong symptoms. Someone who was diagnosed with PCOS so early probably has a good chance of a thyroid imbalance.

In the meantime, exercise is a very good treatment for mild depression. If you feel you need more than that, consider an anti-depressant. You deserve to feel better and some women find good results with anti-depressants and therapy.

I hope things look up for you soon.

Anonymous said...

Have come across your site whilst in deep depression, as at 65, am massive, yet I live on tinned tuna, salads, and low gi fresh vegetables. Hair is thin, and am fed up with people telling me to eat less. Have osteoarthritis in knees & hips so walking difficult, but work out at gym mainly from waist up, so not able to lose weight through physical exercise. Swimming & aqua aerobic exercise are not for weight loss. Thank you for your information.

Stacie Heyen said...

I realize this is an old blog, but I love it. You said so much that we go through.
I have been diagnosed with PCOS since I was 18, but we knew since I was 13 that something was wrong. I am 40 now, never able to have kids, and simply got on with life. But the psychological effects completely crippled me for a good number of years. It helped kill my marriage, and destroyed many friendships. I didn't understand why I was the way I was, and my husband and friends had no idea how to handle me, or what was going on.
I am doing better, but it is difficult, and never really gets *easy*.
I am going to school now, to be a medical assistant, and I am needing to a research paper. With having PCOS, I decided to do one one on the psychological effects of PCOS on women, and your article is the ONLY one I have found that says exactly what I am wanting to say. Everywhere else I look, its simple little comments of, "there is depression involved, and this can make the healing process harder." Um, ya think? You are poignant and to the heart, and I thank you.