Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that occurs in women of childbearing age and affects their hormones. This condition can cause severe symptoms and lead to serious complications. If you were diagnosed with PCOS, timely and proper treatment can help manage your symptoms. In this article, we will tell you everything you should know about polycystic ovary syndrome.
What is PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a quite common issue that affects one in ten women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS have hormonal imbalances and metabolic problems that can affect their overall health and appearance. The point is that polycystic ovary syndrome leads to increased levels of male hormones in women. These hormones are called androgens. Increased levels of androgens can lead to missed periods, affect your fertility, and worsen your well-being.
Causes of PCOS
As mentioned above, PCOS occurs because of the increased production of male hormones called androgens. However, the exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is not clear. Many women with PCOS are insulin resistant. This means that the body cannot make good use of insulin. Insulin levels build up in the body and can cause androgen levels to rise. Excessive weight can also raise insulin levels.
Low-grade inflammation can also lead to the development of PCOS. This condition means that white blood cells produce substances to fight infection. Women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens. Additionally, PCOS can be hereditary. If your mother or sisters have PCOS, you have an increased risk of developing this condition as well.
Symptoms of PCOS
Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome can vary from woman to woman. However, the most common of them are:
- Irregular and/or missing periods
- Heavy blood flow during periods
- Multiple cysts on the ovaries
- Hirsutism (increased facial and body hair growth)
- Male pattern baldness
- Weight gain
- Dark patches of skin
Overweight women often have more severe symptoms since excessive fat increases the production of androgens. Additionally, many women with PCOS have problems with getting pregnant. The point is that multiple cysts on the ovaries interfere with egg release. As a result, the egg can’t be fertilized.
Diagnosis of PCOS
If you have noticed at least some of the aforementioned symptoms, you need to visit a gynecologist. The doctor will perform a pelvic exam and additional testings to diagnose PCOS. These tests may include a blood test and ultrasound.
During a pelvic examination, your gynecologist can visually and manually check your reproductive organs for growths or other abnormalities. Your blood can be analyzed to determine hormone levels. This study can help define possible causes of amenorrhea and other menstrual issues. With the help of an ultrasound, your doctor checks the appearance of your ovaries and the thickness of the lining of your uterus.
Treatment options for PCOS
Unfortunately, there is no cure for polycystic ovary syndrome. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t treat this condition. The point is that treatment options for PCOS are aimed at reducing your symptoms. For example, lifestyle changes can help manage your weight. The point is that weight loss can help significantly improve your condition, enhance the effectiveness of medications your doctor recommends for PCOS, and can even increase your chances to get pregnant.
Hormonal medication like birth control pills, patches, or vaginal rings that contain a combination of estrogen and progestin can help reduce the levels of male hormones, lower your risk of endometrial cancer, correct abnormal bleeding, and help reduce excess hair growth and acne. Surgery can help improve fertility if other treatments don't work. Ovarian drilling is a procedure that uses a laser or a thin, heated needle to make tiny holes in the ovary to restore normal ovulation.
The bottom line
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a quite common issue for many people. It can significantly affect your appearance, menstrual cycle, fertility, and well-being in general. Fortunately, there are treatment options for PCOS that can help manage your symptoms.