In the last couple of weeks, I have come across a couple of different blog posts and articles about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) - something I was diagnosed with a year and a half ago but have honestly never heard anyone talk about. Something I knew I had, but didn't know how extensively it was impacting my life.
I should back up a little...
I have been carrying about ten extra pounds since Luke was born 3 1/2 years ago. I was back in pre-pregnancy jeans six days after delivering Zachary, so it was strange to me to not lose Luke's baby weight right away. I attributed it to aging and having two kids though. I was approaching 35 and everyone said this would happen...
My acne was horrible, but it's always been horrible. Two years ago, I found a dermatologist who put me on Spironolactone (hormone blocker) to treat it. Excessive thirst is a common drug side-effect, and excessive thirst I did have. I went off the Spironolactone, but my excessive thirst never went away. I've been thirsty now for over two years! Turns out, it was not the Spironolactone that caused it.
Six months later, I had three periods in 28 days. I'd never had a single irregular period before this! Went to see my GYN... We discussed the acne, thirst and crazy cycles. He ordered some blood work to check for diabetes, thyroid, etc. Everything came back "normal", so he diagnosed me with PCOS and put me on Yaz (birth control). Since my cycles were NOT normal and everything else WAS, I thought my only real PCOS issue was the insane cycles!
This is what happens when you treat things casually, chalk everything up to "aging" or "postpartum", and don't complain or worry.
I changed dermatologists a year ago. She put me on Accutane for nine months. This worked great while I was on the meds, but when I came off it in December I began having bad breakouts again (only about 1/2 as bad as they were pre-Accutane). I thought the PCOS was strictly an issue for my cycles, so I didn't think to mention it to her before.
One side-effect of Accutane is increased risk of depression and mental issues...
I began experiencing these short episodes of chest tightening and difficulty breathing a few years ago. They lasted for 30-60 seconds, so I didn't think much of them since they subsided so quickly and without lasting effects... Last August, I had a really intense one that resulted in a trip to urgent care. The doctor ran an EKG, chest x-ray, etc. and determined that I was physically fine. She gently told me that she thought I was suffering from panic attacks. I assumed that the attacks had gotten worse as a result of my increased dose of Accutane. I did not know that panic attacks are a symptom of PCOS.
I have also suffered a great deal over the last six months with my emotions - dramatic mood swings, on-edge, impatience, nervousness, insecurity, and most recently I've had times where I've felt as if I were verging on depressed. Sounds like every other tired mom at the tail end of winter, doesn't it? But what I am feeling is not my normal. I'm off.
I also had a physical a few months ago, and labs revealed that my cholesterol is high. Never in my life has my cholesterol been high! I eat fairly well, so it caught me off guard; however, I assumed it was due to lack of exercise. PCOS can cause high cholesterol.
Because there is a rational explanation for every one of these symptoms, I did not put them together to paint one picture of a woman struggling with somewhat un-managed PCOS. (My cycles regulated beautifully with Yaz.) And, because I do not have the "typical body type" of a PCOS patient, doctors hadn't put all the pieces together either.
Today I took my first step toward better treatment. I went to see my wonderful dermatologist. I shared with her my hunches and she confirmed that I was likely right on target. She gave me some recommendations for treating my acne -- and they happen to be drugs that are used by GYN's to treat PCOS.
My next step is to see my GYN next week. I will take my dermatologist's ideas to him and see how we can treat this as a team. I am incredibly blessed with wonderful doctors and am confident that we have the ball rolling in the right direction now.
Now that I know better than to accept everything as "normal".
If you have PCOS, I would love to hear from you. And if you have a smattering of health issues that "you think are nothing", I want to encourage you to find a good doctor and share the entire picture with them. That might have saved me - and my family - months of difficulty.