Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels. Women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones. This hormone imbalance causes them to skip menstrual periods and makes it harder for them to get pregnant.
SOME IMPORTANT POINTS:
- PCOS is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders affecting 8-20 percentof women, many of whom do not have a diagnosis.
- PCOS is linked to the development of other medical conditions, such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
- More than half of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes before the age of 40 years.
- Around 70 percent of ovulatory fertility issues are related to PCOS.
In PCOS grow a number of small cysts, or fluid-filled sacs, on their ovaries. The cysts are not harmful, but they can lead to an imbalance in hormone levels. Women with PCOS may also experience menstrual cycle abnormalities, increased androgen (sex hormone) levels, excess hair growth, acne, and obesity. In addition to the many health conditions associated with PCOS, which will be discussed in this article, PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women – because it can prevent ovulation. Women who can conceive with PCOS have a higher incidence of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and premature delivery.
Symptoms of PCOS include:
- irregular menses
- excess androgen levels
- sleep apnea
- high stress levels
- high blood pressure
- skin tags
- acne, oily skin, and dandruff
- high cholesterol and triglycerides
acanthosis nigricans, or dark patches of skin
- male pattern balding
- insulin resistance
- type 2 diabetes
- pelvic pain
- depression and anxiety
- weight management difficulties including weight gain or difficulty losing weight
excessive facial and body hair growth, known as hirsutism
- decreased libido
Physical exam will include checking for signs of excess hair growth, insulin resistance and acne.
Your doctor might then recommend:
- A pelvic exam. The doctor visually and manually inspects your reproductive organs for masses, growths or other abnormalities.
- Blood tests. Your blood may be analyzed to measure hormone levels. This testing can exclude possible causes of menstrual abnormalities or androgen excess that mimics PCOS. You might have additional blood testing to measure glucose tolerance and fasting cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- An ultrasound. Your doctor checks the appearance of your ovaries and the thickness of the lining of your uterus. A wand like device (transducer) is placed in your vagina (trans vaginal ultrasound). The transducer emits sound waves that are translated into images on a computer screen.
If you have a diagnosis of PCOS, your doctor might recommend additional tests for complications. Those tests can include:
- Periodic checks of blood pressure, glucose tolerance, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Screening for depression and anxiety
- Screening for obstructive sleep apnea