Debbie Savage said she struggled to lose weight for 15 years, dating back to middle school, before she went to five different doctors to finally get the diagnosis that would change her life.
Savage, of Maryland, played sports in middle school but still continued to gain weight. She said she kept active as she aged and maintained a healthy diet but still could not shed the pounds.
“I would go to the doctor once a year and every year he would tell me, ‘Your weight has gone up,’” Savage said in an interview that aired today on “Good Morning America.” “And I would tell him, ‘I am trying,’ and he’d say, ‘Oh, you’re just not trying hard enough.’”
Savage said it took visits to five doctors before she finally got a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome.
“I was so frustrated that years had gone by and this went unnoticed, but at the same time I felt so refreshed that I had an answer to what it was,” Savage said.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an imbalance of a woman's sex hormones, according to the National Institutes of Health. Symptoms of PCOS are diverse but may include infertility, irregular or absent periods, excess facial hair, acne and obesity.
“The exact cause may not be known,” said Dr. Neil Horlick, the obstetrician-gynecologist who definitively diagnosed Savage.
He added: "Women certainly could go undiagnosed for many years ... we think that there is some genetic component."
Savage switched to a Paleo diet after her diagnosis and was prescribed medication to help with insulin resistance, a symptom of PCOS.
Savage said that after her diagnosis, she lost 50 pounds within six months.
“Our lives are so much fuller now because I have an answer and I'm so thankful for that,” she said.
Savage said the diagnosis also resolved her struggle with infertility.
“I was able to get pregnant [and] my husband and I now have twins, that was a surprise,” she said. “We wouldn't have these two precious boys if it weren't for that.”
Savage hopes sharing her story can help others who are going through a similar struggle to recognize the symptoms, in the event that they, too, could have PCOS but may not have received a diagnosis.