This is my personal experience since diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). I’m not being paid to endorse any insurance company, hospital, doctor, or medicine. This article is simply about my PCOS journey in a three-part series: diagnosis, treatment, and side effects. I simply would like to share my story with fellow PCOS-diagnosed women and families or friends who care about anyone that has the same hormonal disorder as I do. You may take my suggestions in this whole series/journey, but you should heed advice more from experienced dermatologists, ob-gynecologists, and/or other experts you trust. I welcome any advice and support from fellow PCOS-diagnosed women. Read the prelude here… My PCOS journey – The Prelude
Part 1 – Hearing about PCOS for the first time (2016)
Acnetrex was a temporary solution to my frustrations. During the year I was taking it, small acne didn’t resurface again and my face’s oiliness was reduced. However, a few months after I stopped taking acnetrex, painful red bumps a.k.a cystic acne reappeared. Regardless of what stage I was in my menstrual cycle, 1 or 2 or small clumps of cystic acne would appear on my face. After dealing with the painful acne, the acne leaves a dark mark in its wake. This is another different scar removal treatment. The skin care battle never seems to end.
I visited Dra. Leynes, my dermatologist, again for another solution. When I told her about the frustrations with my recurring cystic acne, she referred me to an Ob-Gyne, Dra. Palala. “You might have PCOS. It’s a hormonal imbalance in some women. You need to consult with Dra. Palala for a different medicine”, Dra. Leynes suggested. She handed me a referral note addressed to Dra. Palala and I was on my way to the Ob-Gyne’s clinic next door.
Luckily, Dra. Palala was available for the consultation that day. After handing her the referral note from Dra. Leynes and briefly explaining my skin care problems, she instructed me to get an ultrasound to check my ovaries first. That same evening, I had the ultrasound. I returned the following day for the results.
This was the 1st moment I confirmed I had PCOS. The results showed that my right ovary had “polycystic features”, while the left one didn’t have any cysts. I’m dealing with cysts again and this time it’s somewhere else in my body. Dra. Palala went through the ultrasound results, evaluated my skin, and asked me more questions about past medicines and skin care.
“I don’t think this needs to be treated with new medicine for now since [the acne] is minimal. Let’s monitor it first”, Dra. Palala recommended. I was still not totally aware of what having PCOS means at this time nor did I ask about it. I just assumed that if the Ob-Gyne says my this was minimal, then it might not be as bad as I thought. I went back to the dermatologist to share the Ob-Gyne’s findings, to get some topical medicine, and left.
That didn’t turn out as expected. I thought that this series of consultations would be more conclusive and could completely solve my skin care problems. Also, I wasn’t completely briefed on what to expect on having multiple cysts in my ovary aside from its link to my acne. But based on my Ob-Gyne’s recommendation, I continued with the topical treatments and hoped things would sort out by themselves eventually.
Spoiler: They didn’t. They only got worse. Another year passed and I continued to face the frustrations of acne. During this time, it wasn’t only my face. I also started getting more cystic acne on the sides of my face, my cheeks, my chest, and my back! Pimples also showed up in random places such as my waist. I realized I should stop wasting time and look into my PCOS.
Part 2 – Self-realizations and the first PCOS treatment (2018)
I went back to the hospital and this time I was focused more on PCOS treatments versus acne treatments. Acne treatments provided only little resolve and I knew that using these alone is not sustainable anymore. I had to treat this from the source. I initially did some online research on PCOS. I was intrigued to find out that hormonal imbalance due to PCOS causes many side effects in women and it wasn’t just acne. I read about PCOS being linked to bearded ladies, infertility problems, and weight problems. I had to understand my body more to fully see the impact of PCOS and these 3 pieces of advice are very important.
- Advice # 1: Be honest with your doctor and go to consultations alone. There are moments in your life that help define who you are. There are private moments that only you will be able to understand. Visits to the Ob-Gyne below will reveal a lot about you, especially because it’s about your body. When it’s just you and your doctor, it’s easier to ask about things you can’t when a parent or friend is around. Your doctor will be telling you information and asking you questions that may be sensitive, but are important, and it’s best to react and answer candidly. It’s easier to go on this journey alone. Unless you need a support system, to be comfortable is to be independent.
- Advice # 2: Get health insurance. I was worried about the expenses involved. I was sure there will be many visits to the doctor = consultation fees. There will also be several lab tests and procedures = testing fees. Then, there are commute expenses and the actual medicine. It pays to be sick. Health really is wealth. This is where health insurance comes in. Luckily, I had health insurance as part of my benefits in my company at this time. I was able to save over Php 20,000! My health insurance covered all the consultation fees, all the lab fees, and the ultrasound procedure. If one will have consultations for PCOS, just know that it’s going to be costly and it’s best to be prepared.
- Advice # 3: Plan ahead for a full day/s at the hospital. Scheduling visits with the doctors, booking with the ultrasound department, lining up for tests, lining up in the pharmacy, and many other important tasks can take up the whole day or even the week. Make sure to plan your day accordingly.
I have detailed the steps I took to help guide my readers on what to expect in terms of expenses and time going through PCOS testing and diagnosis. Some steps are specific to those experience acne symptoms.
Step One – Get Derma’s Referral and Lab Tests
I booked a consultation was with the dermatologist. She gave me this endorsement letter which what addressed to the Ob-Gyne for oral contraceptives to help with acne.
Dra. Leynes also gave me a checklist of lab tests I needed to take because some medicines will affect my liver. These tests require an X amount of hours for fasting as recommended by your doctor before you can take the tests. For me, it was around a 10-hour fasting period (which means no eating for 10 hours).
Take the blood test the next morning, before eating breakfast. The last time you eat is dinner, which is around 6-8 PM. When you wake up at 7-8 AM, you would’ve had more or less a fasting period of 10 hours. Go to the hospital, take the blood test, then finally have your breakfast. It’s more painless than waiting during your waking hours because you’re easily aware of hunger. Note: never over-fast. Follow the fasting period strictly. No more, no less.
The results of my tests were available via online download in just a few hours, so kudos Makati Med.
Step Two – Get Ob-Gyne’s Referral and Ultrasound
The next consultation was with the Ob-Gyne. She gave me instructions on getting an ultrasound (again) to see the state of my PCOS. The ultrasound is a very important step to check if you have PCOS. It’s not safe to just assume based on symptoms you hear and read about.
The results for this ultrasound didn’t even take an hour to render. Even without my doctor’s interpretation, the encircled statement (see below) was my PCOS diagnosis. No wonder I started getting more acnes and in places I didn’t have before. Almost 2 years ago, only my right ovary had polycystic features. Today, both ovaries are affected.
This is why one shouldn’t wait until things get worse. I left my PCOS untreated when I first learned about it. The consequences were evident on my skin. It only got worse with time. What if eventually acne isn’t my only symptom? Will I wait until then? The body cannot heal this disorder by itself. Action is needed. The next step was to get the PCOS treatment.
Continuation in My PCOS Journey Part 2 – PCOS Treatment.