Some women have beards. I’m not talking grandma with a few long hairs hanging from her chin. I mean full on beard – dark, thick, coarse hair in the chin region. Why might a twenty four year old woman have a beard, you might ask? The answer is simple – PCOS. PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome is a disease that affects one in every ten women, according to Women’s Health.gov. It is a problem that hasn’t been discussed much until recently but can have devastating effects on a woman’s body.
For me, having PCOS means a beard, body hair, cystic acne, anxiety, depression, obesity, fertility issues, insulin resistance, and ovarian cysts. For someone else it could also include hair loss, difficulty sleeping, pelvic pain, and headaches. While ovarian cyst is in the name, the problems this causes run much deeper than that, bombarding every part of the body.
Dealing with PCOS is hard, especially when you don’t know you have it. I have been a big girl my entire life. It has always seemed losing weight was impossible, despite trying every diet known to man. Then, once I hit puberty, I had a ridiculous amount of facial acne. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I got older and looked back, but man, it was awful. It was everywhere and deep and it hurt so much. Of course, just like the weight, nothing seemed to help. I found out in my late teens that I had insulin resistance and was pre-diabetic. That was attributed to my weight and no other investigation was done. I lost about 50 pounds when I was 21 and the pre-diabetes went away but the insulin resistance remained. My very last symptoms to present were facial hair, body hair, and amenorrhea, or the loss of a menstrual period. At that point, I knew there was something wrong with my body.
I went to my OB/GYN and described the hair and told her about not having periods. In that one visit I was diagnosed with PCOS, pending an ultrasound and blood work. I was given so much information and everything that was wrong with my body suddenly seemed to make since. The guilt that I had been carrying about my inability to diet correctly and not washing my face enough and not shaving enough vanished. It wasn’t my fault, I tried. My body was out to get me – there was finally a reason for the chaos.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done. I eventually was put on an antidepressant and anxiety medication, as well as metformin for the insulin resistance. There is also medicine for hair growth, but since I wanted to get pregnant, that was out of the question as it is known to cause birth defects in boys. There is no cure for this disease that literally wreaks havoc on every part of the female body, but knowledge is power!
If you are struggling with any of these symptoms, I urge you to go to your doctor. Not all doctors are educated as they should be about PCOS, so keep going to doctors until you find the right one. There is help out there!
If you are have been diagnosed with PCOS and you are reading this, know that you are not alone. I know firsthand how hard it is to live with the constant advice of how to lose weight, how to get your acne to go away, how to get pregnant. I know how hard it is to try to explain PCOS to those that don’t have it and then get looked at like you are just using it as an excuse. I am there for you, we will overcome. Stay strong, beautiful ladies, we won’t let our diagnosis get us down. We are more than PCOS.