Wed. Jun 26th, 2024

Being diagnosed with PCOS whilst at University

By Grace Henley Mar 19, 2024
1/10 women have PCOS. Photo: Atlascompany/ Freepik1/10 women have PCOS. Photo: Atlascompany/ Freepik

Being told you have a condition where there is little knowledge of its cause and even less knowledge surrounding its treatments is any student’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, it has become the reality for many women who are diagnosed with PCOS. Formerly known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, the condition affects an estimated one in ten women. However, according to the World Health Organisation, up to 70% of sufferers are believed to still be undiagnosed. 

PCOS is the growth of fluid sacs within the ovaries called follicles. These sacs can hinder ovulation and cause irregular periods, abnormal weight gain, a spike in testosterone levels, body hair growth, difficulty getting pregnant and hair loss. 

Monica, a third year student studying at Kingston was finally diagnosed with PCOS last year after suspecting having the condition for much longer. When asked about her diagnosis she said: “I spoke to my GP about irregular periods and cramps and they said it’s normal. I then waited a couple of months and called again, this time they said I am to have a blood test. Only then was I diagnosed with it.

“The symptoms that affect me most would be irregular periods and extreme cramps. In the past they have been so painful that I have thrown up.”

Monica also describes how the condition has affected her ability to attend some classes due to her painful symptoms; however, she remains persistent in trying to get her work done. 

Women are most likely to get a diagnosis in their late teens and early twenties. As it stands, there is currently no cure for PCOS but solutions to manage the impact of the symptoms are available. For example, the contraceptive pill can be provided to regulate periods and period pain and treatments such as laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) have been suggested to help with fertility issues. 

Monica feels that many women would agree that getting a diagnosis can be hard especially as many women do not even know that they have it. When asking what could be done about her condition, doctors suggested limited options such as “to go on the pill or live with it”.

Recent research in Tiawan has reveled that women suffering with the condition are more at risk of suicide attempts and poor mental health and has suggested a cause for concern and action of the mental health of patients with PCOS.

Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Rebecca Waller was asked about the possible effects on female students with the condition. She said that heavy, long periods may cause pain and nausea which may impact their ability to concentrate effectively. 

Speaking about the imapct of other symptons she said: “Others may develop excessive hair on the face, acne or weight gain which can lead to some of the psychological impacts of the syndrome where sufferers can become anxious or depressed about their appearance. This may impact their confidence and therefore ability to attend lectures, and social events. Social stigma may also result from these more outwardly physical signs.” She listed symptoms such as oily skin and acne, irregular periods, rapid weight gain, increased hair growth as things to be aware of and if they are experienced, she urges the individual to seek advice from their GP in the first instance. 

Although Monica feels there is some level of support for women out there, she feels there could definitely be more and awareness around the condition and its impacts on day to day life could be raised further. 

Waller highlighted the NHS website which provides general information as well as hyperlinks to other resources which can help those struggling with PCOS to understand their condition and access useful tips to manage the symptoms. However, she put most emphasis on contacting a GP or University Campus Health Centre to access advice and discuss your concerns with a health professional if you are struggling. 

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