Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Changes in hormone levels are a part of being a woman. But when our hormones are out of balance, that’s a problem. One condition that stems directly from hormonal imbalance is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that interferes with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries. The condition gets its name from the growth of cysts that is apart of PCOS. PCOS can lead to issues with menstrual cycle, fertility, cardiac function, and appearance.
We diagnose and treat PCOS at Center for Women’s Health & Birthcare.
What is polycystic ovarian syndrome?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is common among women of reproductive age. PCOS occurs when a woman’s body overproduces sex hormones, called androgens. Normally, fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries break open, releasing mature eggs. In PCOS, these sacs bunch together, creating many tiny cysts. The cysts are not harmful, but lead to hormonal imbalance.
What is the cause of PCOS?
The causes of PCOS aren’t fully understood. But hormones trigger various important processes in the body, everything from growth to energy production to moods. Since hormones can trigger processes in other hormones, finding exact causes of imbalances such as PCOS can be almost impossible.
However, there are certain factors that are thought to play a role in PCOS:
- Excess insulin — Insulin is the hormone that allows our cells to use sugar for energy. If the cells become resistant to insulin, this can make sugar levels rise, which can trigger additional insulin production. Excess insulin might increase androgen production.
- Heredity — Certain genes seem to be passed on to create a tendency to develop PCOS.
- Low-grade inflammation — Women with PCOS seem to have a low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgen.
- Excess androgen production — In some women, the ovaries produce an abnormally high level of androgen.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Signs of PCOS vary, but if you have at least two of these signs, a PCOS diagnosis will probably follow.
- 1. Irregular periods — Infrequent, irregular, or prolonged periods are the most common symptom of PCOS. Patients with PCOS may go 35 days between periods, or their flow may be abnormally heavy.
- 2. Excess androgen — When your body is producing too much of this male hormone you will show signs such as excess facial and body hair (called hirsutism), occasional severe acne, and male-pattern baldness.
- 3. Polycystic ovaries — Ovaries become enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs. This leads to erratic function.
Additional symptoms of PCOS
- Extra hair — including thicker, darker facial hair, and additional hair on the chest, stomach, and back
- Weight gain
- Thinning scalp hair
- Irregular periods. Some women have no periods, others fewer than nine per year. Some have heavy bleeding.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
If you’re showing symptoms of PCOS, we start by looking at your past health patterns, symptoms, and menstrual cycles. During your physical exam, we’ll look for other signs, such as high blood pressure and abnormal hair growth. We’ll check your blood sugar, insulin, and the levels of other hormones so that we can rule out thyroid problems. We may include a pelvic ultrasound to look for cysts on your ovaries.
How is PCOS treated?
At Center for Women’s Health & Birthcare, our treatment of PCOS depends on if you are seeking to get pregnant, but can include oral contraceptives, anti-androgen medications, or ovulation induction medications. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, weight control, and not smoking are important facets of treatment. Weight loss may be all the treatment that is necessary, as it can help balance your hormones and restart your menstrual cycle.