Disorder of the endocrine system that affects women of reproductive age. It is usually characterized by enlarged ovaries with follicles (cyst-like structures that contain fluid), irregular, absent or long menstrual cycles and obesity. The normal metabolism of androgens and estrogen (hormones) is altered and so is the production of testosterone.

Causes

 

Exact cause is unknown

Hormonal imbalance

Genetics (likely to develop the disorder if the mother/sister has it)

Excessive insulin production (this increases the production of male hormones which in turn interferes with ovulation)

Low-grade inflammation

Symptoms and signs

Irregular periods – intervals that are longer than 35 days, less than 7-8 menstrual cycles per year, absent menstruation for four months or more

Excess male hormones

Excessive facial and body hair

Acne

Sleep apnea

Polycystic ovaries

Obesity and metabolic syndrome

Type II diabetes

High blood pressure

Infertility

Androgenic alopecia (baldness)

Anxiety

Depression

 

Advice

 

Medical history, weight fluctuations and symptoms are preliminarily discussed

 

Physical examination – to check body mass index, height, weight, and blood pressure

 

Pelvic examination – to check for abnormalities of the reproductive organs

 

Blood tests – to verify hormone levels, glucose and triglyceride levels, glucose tolerance test

 

Ultrasounds – to examine ovary appearance and uterus lining

 

The first treatment recommendation is to lose weight through diet and exercise – this can improve the condition and general well-being

 

Medication is given to regulate menstrual cycles: this is done through combination birth control pills (estrogen and progestin), skin patches or vaginal rings that contain these hormones, or through progesterone therapy (only administering progesterone orally 10 to 14 days a month; no contraceptive effect)

 

In cases of insulin resistance, metformin can be prescribed (medication for type 2 diabetes)

 

Medication to stimulate ovulation (for procreative purposes): clomiphene (anti-estrogen medication) and metformin, gonadotropins (follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone medication)

MISCONCEPTIONS
  •  

    Women diagnosed with PCOS can never have children

     

    All the women with PCOS are obese

     

    Weight loss is almost impossible if you have PCOS

     

    The only problem with PCOS is that it causes infertility

     

    The disorder only affects women over 30 years old

Statistics

 

Around 5 million women in the US suffer from PCOS

 

US prevalence among reproductive-age women: 4-12%

 

Prevalence in Europe: 6.5-8%

 

Around 40% of the women with PCOS have insulin resistance

Did you know?

 

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome may have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.

 

It is important to keep track of menstrual cycles, weight and dietary changes in order to see how symptoms improve or worsen after diagnosis.

 

Losing weight can improve chances of conceiving.

 

PCOS Awareness Month: September

 

Famous women with PCOS: Victoria Beckham, Jools Oliver (Mrs Jamie Oliver, mother of 4 children), actress Rebecca Atkinson