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Monday, January 30, 2012

My Skin History and exprience with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

As you probably know, one of my Beauty Resolutions for 2012 was to develop a more natural, organic skin care routine (click here to see all of my 2012 Beauty Resolutions).

Before I start the transition, I thought it would be a good idea to post about my skin history, followed by a post on my current skin care routine and then update with my progress throughout the year.

I can honestly say that if you're walking down the skin care isle at your supermarket, I've tried 80% of the products. If you're browsing a pharmacy, I've tried all of those too. Here's why:

I always had clear skin as a teenager. Sure, I had the occasional spot or two but I never had anything that could possibly resemble acne. I've always taken care of my skin, removed make up, washed my face etc so I thought I was on the acne-free home stretch for the rest of my life.
On my 22nd birthday I received a lovely gift, a giant blemish on my jaw line. Awesome, right? Within a week, I had 5 or 6 blemishes in the same area. I had never dealt with acne before so I didn't really know how to treat it. I scrubbed my face raw every night, applied toners and spot treatments throughout the day and started building my own skin care isle in my bathroom. Within a month, I had acne spreading across my jaw and down my neck, primarily on the right hand side. It wasn't just simple spots either, it was dark purple and red blemishes that just wouldn't go away.

I perfected the art of concealing and covering up every trace of acne on my face but every night when I removed my make up, there it was, a glowing, bruising jaw and neck. Lovely.

I tried product after product, all of them failing, none of them strong enough. I invested hundreds of dollars into these lotions and serums that did nothing.

After about 6 months of battles, I went to my doctor to be referred to a dermatologist. I left my acne uncovered so she could see what was going on, as soon as I walked in, sat down and turned to her she said 'What's going on with this' in her Russian accent while pointing to my chin. 'Oh this? This is just a biology project I decided to grow on my chin, do you like it?'

She asked me a few questions, examined my jaw with a magnifying glass (like you'd really need it) and gave me a prescription to have an ultrasound. 'An ultrasound?' I asked, 'of my face?'. 'Not of your face, of your ovaries'. Gulp. She handed me another prescription for a line of blood tests and sent me on my merry way.

An ultrasound and a few jabs later and I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and my hormones were through the roof.

PCOS is one of the most common endocrine disorders, effecting 5-10% of women in reproductive age (11-47). The healthiest woman in the world can still be diagnosed with PCOS and it comes in various different strains from just causing simple acne right down to ovarian cancer and infertility. In most cases, PCOS can be left untreated and may go away itself or you could have it flare up again throughout your reproductive life. It's genetic and can be passed down through generations in your family, it's usually not harm full but it's always a good idea to have it properly cared for.

In my case, acne was really the only external sign. Some women may find their menstrual cycles have a dramatic change or you may have severe mood alterations. The signs and symptoms are varied from woman to woman. An imbalance of hormones is a very common side effect of PCOS. For me, I had elevated estrogen and lowered testosterone which is what was causing my acne. It was like my body was going through puberty again, a time that we all want to repeat I'm sure.

I had the option of a further inspection of my ovaries which would have required surgery but was advised by my doctor that it wasn't necessary, that I would balance myself out for the time being and that in a few years I can go back and see what I need to do. My PCOS is permanent, it's unlikely that it will disappear but it's not severe enough to have removed without risk of infertility.

It's been about 18 months since I was diagnosed and it took about three months after my diagnosis before my skin started to calm down. I took balancing hormones for two months and then chose to go off them because of they made me tired and irritable.

Currently, my skin is clear. I'll see a few blemishes at certain times throughout my menstrual cycle but nothing that is a concern or can't be covered up. I use strong skin care products to combat any sneaky acne but I don't really feel like I need it anymore. My only real problem now is the excruciating period pain that I'm learning to endure, but we won't get into that.

If your skin or menstral cycle suddenly changes, see a doctor. PCOS is very common and always needs diagnosis/treatment whether it's mild or severe.

For more information on PCOS, see the following links:



Anonymous said...

Hi! I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award

diagnonsence said...

Thank you for your honest and inspiring post, it is so inspiring to see people who have gone through a tough experience, help others. I was diagnosed with lung fibrosis in my teens and my skin was shocking till I started to eat healthier and take supplements. It really pays to get regular check up and listen to your body :)