Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) FAQ
Join Wana to learn the FAQ about Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
If you have PCOS, remember that you’re not alone. Whatever your symptoms, there’s someone out there—and probably right here on Wana—who gets what you’re going through.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects 1 in 10 individuals with ovaries who are of reproductive age. PCOS causes infrequent or irregular periods (due to the lack of progesterone) and is a leading cause of infertility when it’s not diagnosed and managed. Not everyone with PCOS develops cysts, despite the disorder’s name.
What happens with PCOS?
When you have PCOS, three main hormonal systems are off kilter:
- you have excess androgens (hormones like testosterone and androstenedione)
- you don’t have enough progesterone
- you have an abnormal response to insulin (so blood sugar is higher and insulin production gets cranked up, contributing to even higher androgens).
What are symptoms and long-term effects of PCOS?
In general, symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, acne, mood changes, headaches, pelvic pain, and more.
All those extra androgens can cause unwanted hair growth on the face, arms, and other areas of the body (a condition known as hirsutism), which is also a distressing symptom for some people. It can cause those with PCOS to deal with a lot of embarrassment, especially if they are in their young adult or adult years. At the same time, not everyone is bothered by body hair—some people don’t mind it, and others embrace it. Everyone is different!
What causes PCOS?
Among the many frustrating features of PCOS, which can also cause ovarian cysts and other issues, is that we may never have a definitive answer for what causes it. (If you had a dollar for every time you heard that, right?)
How do you know you have PCOS?
Unfortunately, there is no single test for PCOS, so if you are having symptoms, your practitioner will likely do a careful history, lab work, and perhaps an ultrasound to look for ovarian cysts.
Is there a cure for PCOS?
There's no known cure for PCOS, and treatment mainly focuses on your individual concerns, such as infertility, hirsutism, or weight gain.
If you are not trying to get pregnant, practitioners will often recommend hormonal birth control as a standard treatment. Studies suggest certain herbal remedies, such as chasteberry, black cohosh, and Chinese cinnamon, can relieve some of the symptoms. Myo-inositol, vitamins D and B-complex, and acupuncture are other popular treatments.
What is Wana?
Wana: We Are Not Alone is the community for chronic conditions – an app enabling people with chronic and invisible conditions to connect and share information. Our mission is to destigmatize chronic illness and provide you with the support you need on your healing journey. Download the app here.