One thing you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see on the street every day? Women with pit hair (or ones with more than just stubble anyway). But starting today, the sight might become at least a little more common. A new movement called Armpits4August is encouraging women to stop shaving their underarms for 31 days to raise awareness about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition that causes, among other things, excess hair growth.
What Is PCOS? PCOS affects an estimated five to 10 percent of pre-menopausal women worldwide, according to the University of Chicago Medicine. When someone has PCOS, her ovaries stop making all of the hormones needed for eggs to matureÃ¢â‚¬”and they start making increased levels of male hormones. As a result, she canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ovulate and becomes infertile.
The Symptoms If you have six or fewer periods per year, you might want to ask your doctor if you could have PCOS since this is the top indicator of the syndrome, says Andrea Dunaif, MD, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Northwestern University. Other telltale signs include weight gain, acne, excess body hair growth, male-pattern baldness-like hair loss, and difficulty getting pregnant.
Most women discover that they have PCOS when theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in their mid- to late teens and twenties, when they realize that their periods still havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t become regular after a few years of menstruation (or when they struggle to conceive). ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no specific test to diagnose PCOS, so doctors have to rule out other possibilities first. Pelvic exams, blood tests, and ultrasounds can help confirm if you have the condition.
How to Treat It ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no known cure for PCOS, but the symptoms and complications are treatable. Low-dose birth control pills or progesterone-only pills can help regulate your period and hair growth, says Dunaif. And a diabetes medication called metformin can lower insulin levels and induce ovulation. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re trying to get pregnant, prescription pills could help you ovulate, as can injections of hormones called gonadotropins. Follicle surgery is also available as a last resort.
The Movement for Awareness While treatment options do exist (as mentioned above), itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mostly on patients to take care of visible signs like excess hair growth. But is it something they should have to take care of? Not according to the U.K.-based Armpits4August.
People who are signing up to take part in the campaign are swearing off shaving for the entire month of August, and in exchange, they get to attend events like a Ã¢â‚¬Å“Pit Pride PartyÃ¢â‚¬Â and a Ã¢â‚¬Å“PitMobÃ¢â‚¬Â in London. But more importantly, participants will also raise funds for Verity, an organization that educates healthcare professionals on PCOS and gives women who have it a support system.
Ready for the buzzkill? Armpits4August events havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been organized in the U.S.Ã¢â‚¬”yet. But you can still check out Armpits4August.org to sponsor a participant or donate to the charity directly. And if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re brave enough to also stop shaving this month as a show of solidarity, more power to you!
photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock More from Women's Health:
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Waxing and Shaving Tips
Hormonal Much? How Hormones Affect Your Body