Top 10 PCOS FAQs answered
Our doctors answer some of the most common questions regarding a PCOS diagnosis and living with the condition.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects about one in every ten women in the UK, and it can be a confusing condition for people to deal with. However, we are here to shed some light on what living with PCOS could mean for you by answering your top ten frequently asked questions.
1. Can I have PCOS even if I don't have cysts on my ovaries?
Yes. There was a time that it was thought that you could not be diagnosed with PCOS if you didn’t have cysts on your ovaries. However, in 2018 new guidelines on diagnosing PCOS were published and now you only need two of the main features of PCOS to be diagnosed, rather than all three .
The three main features of PCOS are:
- Irregular periods
- Excess androgens (high levels of key male hormones, such as testosterone)
- Polycystic ovaries
Also, the word cyst can be misleading. Women with PCOS have higher numbers of ovarian follicles (the sac in which the eggs develop), and these can go on to develop into a follicular cyst – but the follicles themselves are not cysts in their own right.
2. Is PCOS rare?
Though sometimes you may feel alone when diagnosed with a new health condition such as PCOS, it may make you feel better to know that you are not – around one in every ten women is diagnosed with the condition.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or alone after being diagnosed with PCOS, see our where to get support section on what every woman should know about PCOS.
3. Am I at increased risk of cardiovascular disease if I have PCOS?
It has been previously thought that you are more at risk of cardiovascular disease due to PCOS alone. However, more recent studies have shown that there is no credible evidence in all women with PCOS .
Risk factors that come alongside things such as being overweight (due to PCOS), increase your risk of conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
You can read more about conditions that PCOS can put you at a higher risk of developing in our blog.
4. Is there a specific diet that can help with my PCOS symptoms?
Diet and lifestyle can help to manage symptoms of PCOS. And a healthy, balanced diet should do the trick in helping. This is not to say that we recommend that you take part in any calorie-controlled diets without consulting a specialist first.
Instead, you could look at diets such as a low GI (Glycaemic Index) diet, the Mediterranean diet, or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. We have also put together some information on a PCOS-friendly diet.
5. Can PCOS be cured?
Though PCOS is not curable, it can be well-managed. And a lot of women live comfortably with the condition. Managing your symptoms can easily be done through simple lifestyle and diet changes.
You can read more about changes you can make to help relieve symptoms in our 5 ways to manage your symptoms blog.
6. Can PCOS give me mood swings?
Women with PCOS do complain of mood swings, and it may well be that the hormonal imbalance associated with PCOS impacts how you feel emotionally.
However, being overweight or suffering from hirsutism or acne can also lower your self-esteem, causing an emotional disturbance.
7. Can I lose weight if I have PCOS?
Losing weight with PCOS may be challenging but it’s possible. The science backs that if you are in a calorie deficit (i.e., you eat less than you burn, or you burn more than you eat), you should lose weight. However, hormones and water retention can also mean you do not always see the numbers on the scale that you may want.
Remember, it is not always about the numbers on the scales, it is how you feel about yourself. If you are worried about your weight and looking to decrease your weight due to being at higher risk for conditions you may be at higher risk of, speak to your GP as they may be able to help with your weight loss.
8. If I lose weight, will my symptoms disappear?
By losing weight, some women do see an improvement in their symptoms. Weight loss can reduce your risk of conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease - and it may also improve the regularity of periods.
However, this does not work for all women with PCOS, especially if they do not have much weight to lose.
9. Does having PCOS mean I won't be able to conceive?
Having PCOS can make it harder to conceive, but there are lots of treatments to help women to ovulate and become pregnant.
Losing weight can have a positive effect on your fertility as if you're overweight, you are less likely to ovulate, and it will also be harder to stimulate the ovaries. There is good reason to be optimistic - most women with PCOS will be able to have children.
You can read more about PCOS and fertility, in our how can PCOS affect fertility section.
10. Does PCOS run in families?
PCOS can sometimes run in the family. Having a mother, sister, or auntie could increase your risk of developing the condition . However, there has not yet been a specific gene found responsible for the genetic link.
- nhs.uk. 2022. Polycystic ovary syndrome. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/> [Accessed 22 June 2022].
- Jovanovic, V., Carmina, E. and Lobo, R., 2010. Not all women diagnosed with PCOS share the same cardiovascular risk profiles. Fertility and Sterility, 94(3), pp.826-832.
- Causes. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/causes/#:~:text=Genetics,have%20not%20yet%20been%20identified.> [Accessed 22 June 2022].
Advanced Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Blood Test
This advanced profile for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) includes tests for diabetes, cholesterol as well as hormones, thyroid function and AMH (anti-mullerian hormone)...