I spent three years being told (and believing) that the symptoms affecting my quality of life were ‘just due to stress’. It took quite a few doctors and medical tests to confirm that I actually had polycystic ovary syndrome.
What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is the most common hormonal condition among women of childbearing age worldwide, affecting anywhere between 4% and 20% of that group. It is characterised by irregular periods, hormonal imbalance and a ‘polycystic’ appearance of the ovaries – meaning they become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled follicles. Common symptoms include weight gain, loss of hair from the head, severe acne and excessive hair growth on the face and body.
I had never heard of PCOS until I was diagnosed, but quickly discovered that many people in my life had been directly or indirectly affected by it.
Delays in diagnosis
There is no definitive test to diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome – diagnosis relies on a combination of tests, and diagnostic criteria vary between countries. A global survey of people living with the syndrome found that almost half saw at least three healthcare professionals before being diagnosed, and one in three waited more than two years for their diagnosis. Symptoms may be misinterpreted as signs of stress, unhealthy lifestyle choices or young age.