Affecting an estimated one in every five women, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (commonly known as PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal disorders affecting women.

Although doctors are still unsure about why some women develop polycystic ovaries, PCOS is associated with a hormonal imbalance, causing the ovaries to produce insufficient amounts of FSH and progesterone or excess androgens.

Want to learn a bit more? Here are five things you should know about PCOS.

1. You Are Not Alone

If you have just been diagnosed, it is natural to feel isolated and alone, but there is a lot of support out there. Try and connect with other women out there with PCOS via charities such as Verity – the UK charity for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

2. The “Cysts” Associated With PCOS Are Not Actually Cysts

Yes, it is a tad confusing, but the “cysts” associated with PCOS are not actually cysts. They are actually eggs that will not get released.

Due to abnormal hormone levels, eggs will never grow enough to reach the point of ovulation; instead they accumulate in the ovary and resemble cysts.

3. The Symptoms Are Varied

The symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) vary from person to person, and not all women will experience all of the common indicators.

Key signs to look out for are:

• Irregular periods or no periods at all (amenorreah)

• Oily skin or reoccurring acne

• Excess hair on face, chest, back or bum

• Thinning hair or complete hair loss from the head

• Weight gain

• Difficulty getting pregnant (due to the irregular ovulation)

If your doctor suspects that you may have PCOS, they may look at the following to help diagnose:

• Medical history

• Physical exam

• Pelvic exam

• Blood tests

• Vaginal ultrasound

4. Diet Can Have A Big Impact

In addition to the commonly associated symptoms, women who are diagnosed with PCOS are at an increased risk of developing diabetes and high cholesterol.

With PCOS, cells in the body become resistant to insulin, so the pancreas has to work overtime to make more of this hormone. This results in excessively high levels of insulin being produced, causing a rise in androgen (testosterone) levels, which directly affects the ovaries and prevents ovulation

Being overweight can increase the amount of insulin your body produces, and exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Adopting a well-balanced, low GI diet is crucial to help regulate insulin levels.

5. You Can Conceive

Will I be able to get pregnant?

This is often the most pressing question asked when diagnosed with PCOS, and although it is one of the most challenging symptoms, a diagnosis of PCOS doesn’t mean you will never have a baby.

If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, you may have trouble conceiving because of irregular periods, but it is possible to induce ovulation. Medications called clomifene and metformin can be used to encourage ovulation

Achieving a normal insulin level can also help stimulate ovulation. If you are overweight, your doctor will normally ask you to reach a healthy BMI before tying any fertility drugs or procedures.