At Allara, we know PCOS is a reproductive condition that looks different for everyone. And finally the traditional healthcare industry is catching up to this realization. After years of systemic underdiagnosis, primary care physicians and specialists are seeing that “the diversity of phenotypes manifested by this condition” (in other words, all PCOS’ different observable manifestations) are both what make it so isolating for patients and what makes a medical diagnosis so easy to overlook.
Allara patient, Alysse P, knows this too well. When she asked her primary care physician if she might have PCOS, she was told a categorical ‘no,’ because she wasn’t overweight. But weight gain isn’t a requirement for a positive PCOS diagnosis, it’s just one of (many) symptoms that may appear. We sat down with Alysse to talk about how, since her diagnosis, she has managed her PCOS, her experience with Allara so far, and how she plans to tackle the root cause of her symptoms. Let’s dive in.
When did your PCOS symptoms start showing up?
I always had heavy, irregular periods, paired with acne, when I was growing up. I went on birth control for 2 years to try to reduce my acne, but I didn’t see improvement, and so when I decided to stop birth control, my hormones just went out of control.
Cystic acne showed up along my jawline, and my period disappeared, and I started to suspect PCOS. I brought up the possibility to my doctor, but she dismissed it, saying that I wasn’t overweight. A year later, when I brought it up again, she agreed to order an ultrasound, which ultimately ended up confirming I had PCOS.
How long have you been a patient at Allara?
For a year now!
What has been your biggest struggle with PCOS?
Like a lot of women, my biggest struggle was trying to find the best way for me to manage my symptoms. My doctor’s only advice was to go back on birth control, but I didn’t want to hide the symptoms, I wanted to treat the underlying cause.
I went to a naturopathic doctor whose advice ended up being really successful at clearing my cystic acne. After moving away, though, I had to stop seeing her, and my periods were still irregular. I tried searching for online sources, but because PCOS is so different for everyone, it was difficult to figure out what steps I should take. That’s when I started looking into telehealth and found Allara.
What was your thought process when signing up for Allara?
I signed up with Allara for so many reasons. Most importantly, I wanted to get advice from specialist professionals who truly listened to my concerns and understood how PCOS affects my everyday life. I also wanted to gain an understanding of the root cause of my symptoms: I didn’t want to mask them with bandaid solutions, I wanted a tailored treatment plan that would correct underlying imbalances that my body was trying to flag to me.
What have you gained from Allara?
The biggest thing for me has been taking the guesswork out of managing my PCOS.
Thanks to the specialist expertise I have access to now, I have a better understanding of why my symptoms manifest the way they do, and how to treat them as they crop up. I’ve also received support as far as tailoring my plan. For instance, the first combination of medication and supplements wasn’t the best fit, but after we made adjustments, we’re starting to see my testosterone levels come down. There’s still a way to go, but I’m not alone anymore. I have resources I need.
How does Allara differ from traditional care you’ve received?
By far the biggest difference is the approach to managing PCOS. Traditional care providers’ only suggestions were to start birth control and come back when I wanted to get pregnant. That’s it. Allara opened the door to more holistic treatment options, from nutrition, to exercise, to supplementation, to medication, and beyond. And since I check in with my Allara expert regularly, I can ask questions as they come up and get my needs met more immediately, without long waiting periods in between doctor's visits.
What’s the best advice you’ve received on your PCOS journey so far?
The best advice I’ve received on my PCOS journey is that you don’t have to put as many limitations on yourself as you might think. If you have PCOS, there’s nothing you can’t do or can’t eat. It’s all about learning how to create balance in your diet and lifestyle, and Allara has definitely helped me with that.