We know that living with PCOS can be tough and we know that we have it for life. We have to look after ourselves now so that we don’t suffer from the possible other health effects of PCOS – high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes.
It sounds scary but with the right support and approach, we don’t have to face these things.
So, what support and approach am I talking about?
Well, I see it as being a number of things. Firstly, as you know, I am a firm believer in the power of nutrition, supplements and lifestyle elements in managing your PCOS. In fact, leading a PCOS friendly lifestyle should ALWAYS be the first line of treatment for PCOS (1).
Eating well for your PCOS, exercising regularly and taking supplements have been shown to help with:
- Improving insulin sensitivity (and therefore avoiding Type 2 Diabetes)
- Improved menstrual cycles
- Improved fertility
- Less long term complications
That sounds good to me!
But there is another element that we have to consider.
PCOS is ultimately a medical condition and we need some support from our doctors.
So, with that in mind, here are 5 questions that you need to ask your doctor about your PCOS:
1. I have been diagnosed with PCOS, what support can you offer me?
Whether you have just recently been diagnosed or have known about your PCOS for a while, it is important to know what support is available to you. For example, your doctor may be able to refer you to a fertility specialist or prescribe medication to help with your symptoms.
2. Is my thyroid healthy and functioning well?
We know that hypothyroidism and PCOS often go hand in hand. In fact, one study found that 22.5% of women with PCOS have subclinical hypothyroidism. That is a lot of us.
The thing is, that hypothyroidism can make your PCOS symptoms worse. Here are the symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Irregularities with your menstrual cycle
So, you can see that even if you can improve your underlying PCOS, if your thyroid is not functioning well, you will still have some frustrating symptoms to deal with.
You can ask your doctor to do a blood test that will check your thyroid function. This blood test would assess the levels of Thyroid stimulating Hormone, T4, T3 and free T4 (2).
3. Is my cholesterol level healthy?
High cholesterol is another risk factor of PCOS and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggest that cholesterol is assessed every two years for women with PCOS (3).
A really interesting research study carried out by Dr. Amy Dhesi of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center found that only 54% of doctors order the recommended fasting lipid profile for their patients who have PCOS.
If your doctor has not checked your cholesterol levels recently, please make sure that you ask to have the test done at your next appointment.
4. Am I insulin resistant or pre diabetic?
PCOS is very closely linked with insulin resistance. In fact, one study suggests that 50-70% of women with PCOS may have some degree of insulin resistance (4).
In fact, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists have concluded that PCOS is a major risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes and propose that ALL women with PCOS over the age of 30 are screened for Diabetes (5).
Now, the study carried about By Dr Dhesi found that only 7% of doctors would order a 2 hour oral glucose tolerance (OGTT) test for women with PCOS. Many doctors screen for diabetes using the hemoglobin A1C test. This tests for average blood sugar levels but it is not as sensitive as the OGTT (hubby is a Type 1 Diabetic and his doctors use his HBA1C as an indication of how well controlled his blood sugars are).
Also, many doctors don’t repeat these tests unless a woman’s medical history has changed. I would suggest that you need to be screened for possible diabetes every 2 to 5 years.
5. I know that PCOS has some other health implications. What should I be looking out for?
As I said right in the beginning, we know that PCOS is a risk factor for things like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Hopefully these are thing that we will all avoid by following a good PCOS diet, taking our supplements and exercising.
But as we all know, nothing is guaranteed in life. So, make sure to ask your doctor if there is anything you should look out for or be aware of in terms of these secondary conditions.
Now, this list of questions is not exhaustive. I’m sure there are a lot of other questions that you may have for your doctor. Be sure to write them down before your next appointment and take them with you so that you can walk away with as many answers as possible.
Remember, knowledge is power!