GEMMA Collins recently opened up about her battle with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
The TV star, 39, said the condition made her gain weight as she shared a "very slim" snap of herself in her 20s.
Gemma said: "As you can see guys when I was in my 20s I was very slim then I was told I had PCOS and it’s been a struggle ever since.
"However, I make the most of myself and remain positive because it’s what in your heart counts the most sending love to all the PCOS sufferers it’s not easy and always be kind people people are not always over weight because of all the stereo typical bullying comments!"
But what is PCOS and can it really make you gain weight?
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a common condition that has an impact on how ovaries function.
According to the NHS, the three main features of PCOS are:
- Irregular periods – which means your ovaries do not regularly release eggs (ovulation)
- Excess androgen – high levels of "male" hormones in your body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair
- Polycystic ovaries – your ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs (but despite the name, you do not actually have cysts if you have PCOS).
If you have at least two of these features, you may be diagnosed with PCOS.
Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of harmless follicles that are up to 8mm (approximately 0.3in) in size.
The follicles are underdeveloped sacs in which eggs develop.
In PCOS, these sacs are often unable to release an egg, which means ovulation does not take place.
It's difficult to know exactly how many women have PCOS, but it's thought to be very common, affecting about one in every five women in the UK.
More than half of these women do not have any symptoms.
Can it make you gain weight?
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director, Patientaccess.com, says many women with PCOS will gain weight – but also struggle to lose it as well.
She told The Sun: "The relationship between PCOS and weight is complicated.
"Being overweight increases your chance of getting PCOS, but in some cases having PCOS can lead to weight gain, especially around your tummy.
"Many women with PCOS find it hard to lose weight, too."
Other symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Difficulty getting pregnant as a result of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate
- Excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- Oily skin or acne
Having polycystic ovaries also increases a woman's chance of developing type 2 diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and high cholesterol and sleep apnoea later in life, the NHS warned.
Having irregular periods can also increase a woman's risk of developing womb cancer.
What causes PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown but several factors are thought to play a role, including:
- Excess insulin in the body – if you have too much insulin in your body it may increase your androgen (male hormones) production which could interfere with your ovaries ability to ovulate.
- Low grade inflammation – some research has shown that women with the condition suffer from low grade inflammation, which can stimulate the ovaries to produce androgen.
- It's hereditary – the chances are that if your mother or sister suffers with polycystic ovaries then you will develop the condition too.
Is there a treatment for PCOS?
The condition cannot be cured but the symptoms can be managed.
While the symptoms of polycystic ovaries are varied, so too are the treatment options.
Each treatment is designed to manage each individual's most common symptom, and include:
- Weight loss – losing just five per cent of your body weight if you are overweight can significantly improve your symptoms, the NHS says.
- The Pill – the contraceptive pill can be used to keep your periods regular by maintaining a healthy hormone balance. It can also help protect against the possibility of developing womb cancer. It can also control excessive hair growth.
- Medication – a drug called clomifene is usually the first treatment for women who are trying to get pregnant as it encourages the monthly release of an egg. If that does not work then metformin may be prescribed to lower blood sugar and control hormones.
- IVF – if a woman is struggling to conceive a course of IVF can boost the chances of becoming pregnant.
- Surgery – a minor procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling can be used for fertility problems. During the surgery the doctor will destroy the tissue producing androgens that are causing infertility using heat or a laser.
Speak to a GP if you think you may have the condition.
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