Careful what I wish for. While I so miss a normal head of hair, I’ve never mourned the loss of the hair on my legs and armpits. The loss of eyebrows and eyelashes is the icing on the alopecia cake, but there is an upside down version of this hair loss cake that would be equally difficult to deal with - polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). I recently had a conversation with a customer who has this condition, and her story prompted me to learn more and to share what I’ve learned.
In a nutshell, PCOS is a syndrome in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. One of the very common symptoms associated with this condition is the frequent development of small cysts on the ovaries, hence its name. In terms of hormonal imbalance, there is an overproduction of male hormones (androgens), the root of the hair woes. The abnormally high concentrations of male hormones often lead to multiple appearance symptoms, such as acne, loss of scalp hair, accompanied by extra hair growth on the chest, belly, and back. Unlike alopecia areata, PCOS, if left untreated, can lead to more serious health conditions, such as diabetes and infertility.
No one knows what causes PCOS, though there seems to be some sort of genetic relationship as women with PCOS are more likely to have a mother or sister with PCOS. We alopecians know how that feels. When the cause is unknown, then the best we can do is attempt to treat symptoms. In the case of PCOS, there is a whole stew of medications that one can piece together in an attempt to reverse individual symptoms. There is also a health promoting recommendation - eating a whole foods, natural diet and maintaining a healthy weight.
I’m grateful to have learned about this condition, which despite my lack of exposure, is not uncommon. The next time I’m lamenting the loss of my facial hair or my life with alopecia, I’ll have all those women with PCOS in mind and heart.
Susan Beausang, 4women.com
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