Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS as it is also known as a common condition that affects a woman’s hormones and how their ovaries work. The condition causes a woman’s body to produce too much insulin and her ovaries to produce too much testosterone preventing normal ovulation.
Causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Whilst the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, it is believed to be due to abnormal hormone levels within the body, including increased amounts of insulin.
Insulin is produced in the Pancreas and is a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in our blood. Many women with PCOS are resistant to insulin thus producing more. This increase in Insulin within the body leads to the production of even more hormones, such as testosterone. The increased amounts of insulin cause the ovaries to produce too much testosterone which prevents normal ovulation. The insulin increase can also lead to weight gain causing even more problems.
It is thought that genetics plays a big part in relating to the cause of PCOS, if any relatives such as your mother, sister or aunt have the condition then you are at a higher risk of developing the condition yourself.
Typical PCOS Symptoms:
Common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular or no periods
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Excessive hair growth – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
- Weight gain
- Hair loss or thinning hair
- Oily skin and acne
Fertility can also be affected by PCOS, in fact, PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women, because of the affected hormones, women fail to ovulate regularly, which means their periods are irregular making it difficult for them to get pregnant.
If you think that any of the symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome relate to you, it is important to talk to and discuss these with your doctor. Your doctor will talk about your symptoms. There is a specific diagnosis criterion your doctor will run through before referring you on to a specialist if he/she suspects the condition. You need to meet 2 out of 3 of the following to be referred:
- You have irregular or infrequent periods
- Blood tests show high levels of male hormones (testosterone)
- The scan shows you have Polycystic Ovaries
If you meet the above criteria you will likely be referred to a gynecologist, who will discuss your care and any follow-up tests or treatment plans with you.
Whilst there is no cure for PCOS its symptoms can be managed by lifestyle changes like daily brisk walking for at least 45 minutes for 5 days a week, maintaining a proper sleep pattern along with a proper and healthy diet.
There are also medications available to help with the increased hair growth, regulate hormone levels and prevent fertility problems, your doctor or specialist will be able to discuss these with you.
Whilst PCOS is a long term medical condition with no cure, it is important to remember that with the right care and treatment in place it is possible to live a relatively normal and fulfilling life with the condition, especially when caught and treated quickly. So if you suspect you or a family member may have the condition you should talk to a doctor as soon as possible.