Events World Diabetes Day 2023 November 14th is World Diabetes Day, a time to reflect and deepen our understanding of a nurse’s role in patients’ diabetic care. Review the types of diabetes, risk factors that increase the chance of diabetes, the...
PCOS Awareness Month 2022
- Have you heard of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?
- Do you or someone you know experience irregular menstrual cycles? PCOS is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting women.
- September is PCOS awareness month, so let’s talk all things PCOS.
MPH, MSN, WHNP-BC
PCOS Awareness Month
September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month. PCOS is a reproductive and endocrine health condition that affects women of reproductive age.
This chronic women’s health condition is getting more visibility in mainstream media and nursing practices since more people are learning about its existence and more women are speaking up about their experiences in health care.
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a chronic reproductive and endocrine health condition that can have many presentations. PCOS has three main features:
- Ovarian cysts
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Increased levels of certain hormones
PCOS can be difficult to assess and manage since it can have many varying presentations. For instance, there are many people with PCOS who do not have many (or any) ovarian cysts. There are also people with PCOS who can have several ovarian cysts. Menstrual irregularities can also vary person to person. Some people with PCOS may experience a menstrual cycle every few months, while someone else with PCOS might have daily vaginal bleeding.
Because of the differing clinical presentation of PCOS, it can be misdiagnosed, not well managed, and improperly treated.
PCOS can be severely painful, particularly during menstruation because of the increased endometrial tissue that has not been regularly released, the ovarian cysts, and abnormal hormonal levels.
How Common Is PCOS?
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people with a uterus have PCOS in America. This is only an estimation as many people with uteri often do not discuss their menstrual history, causing PCOS to be underdiagnosed and underreported.
If PCOS is left untreated, it can lead to fertility concerns, chronic pelvic pain, decreased quality of life, and perpetual irregular menstrual cycles.
Because of lack of funding, lack of research, and lack of awareness about PCOS, there is still so much more to learn about this health condition.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of PCOS?
Common signs and symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular menstrual bleeding
- Excessive body hair (hirsutism)
- Skin tags
- Hair thinning
- Weight gain or issues losing weight
While there are common signs and symptoms of PCOS, some other less common signs are fatigue, nausea, and pelvic pain.
How Is PCOS Diagnosed?
There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. A PCOS diagnosis is often a result of several blood tests, ultrasounds, patient history, and a physical exam.
What Causes PCOS?
Unfortunately, there is no known cause for PCOS. There are several theories on PCOS’ cause, but no definite answer.
Who Is at risk for PCOS?
Some risk factors for PCOS include:
- Having one or more relatives (mother, aunt or sister) with PCOS
- Having one or more relatives with Type 2 diabetes
- Experiencing chronic stress
There is still so much to learn about PCOS, so this list of risk factors is not final!
Who Is at risk for PCOS?
Now that you’ve heard all the stuff concerning PCOS, you must be so eager to learn about treatment options!
In terms of medication, some health care providers might recommend hormonal contraception, such as the contraceptive pill or intrauterine device to manage menstrual bleeding. Some health care providers might recommend Metformin, a prescription used to manage blood sugar levels since insulin resistance is very common among people with PCOS.
It is important to note that there is no one pill or one surgery that can to treat PCOS. PCOS is a chronic health condition with no cure, only options to manage it. For these reasons, it is important to raise awareness about this condition during PCOS Awareness Month.
Knowing that there is no cure and that it can present so differently in people, managing PCOS is best done under the guidance of a trusted and accredited health care provider.
If you are concerned about pelvic pain, menstrual health, or anything else regarding the pelvis, consider reaching out to your health care provider for more information.
How Can I Learn More during PCOS Awareness Month?
Some evidence-based organizations that can provide you with the latest information and patient education tools on PCOS include:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Planned Parenthood
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- U.S. Office on Women’s Health
The Bottom Line on PCOS Awareness Month
September is PCOS Awareness Month. Often times, there can be mixed messages people see on social media and from their community members regarding reproductive health.
Nurses are the most trusted profession for a reason. Patients often turn to nurses for medical information since there can be so many misconceptions about reproductive health, treatment options, and more.
It is also crucial for nurses to recognize that there are several reasons why someone would not want to discuss their reproductive health concerns. There are people who have had negative experiences with the health care system, people with cultural differences, and people who have religious beliefs who might not feel comfortable discussing their reproductive health concerns.
By providing a safer space and having a non-judgmental approach, you can work to establish trust between yourself and the patient and provide as much health screening and information as possible.
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