Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome is a common hormonal endocrine system disorder among women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS may have enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid called follicles located in each ovary which could be visible during an ultrasound exam.
Some of the symptoms that signal the onset of PCOS include irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth in unusual areas, acne and unexplained weight gain. Infrequent or absence of menstruation in adolescents could also signify the condition.
There are other symptoms a woman should watch out for as PCOS cannot be diagnosed with one test alone and symptoms vary from woman to woman.
Although, the exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is still unknown, early diagnosis and treatment along with weight loss may reduce the risk of developing several medical conditions and other long-term complications, such as insulin resistance, type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol imbalance and high blood pressure.
Ten percent of women of child bearing age (mostly women in their 30s) are at risk of developing PCOS, but the risk decreases as age decline. Studies have shown that one in every ten women has PCOS and certain genetic factors may also play a role in its development such as type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
PCOS occurs when there is a hormonal imbalance and the eggs in the ovaries are unable to fully mature and the follicles remain in the ovary as cysts. The needed hormone, progesterone is not produced which results to an anovulatory cycle (where ovulation does not take place) and infrequent or missed menstrual cycles. Anovulation is a common cause of Infertility.
If left untreated, PCOS could cause heart problems and other conditions such as heart attack and stroke, due to the high levels of insulin. It can also result in metabolic syndrome.
There is an increase of androgen popularly known as “male hormones” in the ovaries of patients with PCOS. It is normally found in minimal levels in women but the level increases and becomes more concentrated in PCOS patient, thereby resulting in unwanted hair growth. This imbalance also causes acne and male type baldness.
Studies have also shown that women who smoke have higher levels of androgen, which contributes to unhealthy weight gain. Although quitting will not make all of the symptoms go away, it will most likely mitigate them and also lower the risk of cardiovascular complications. Smoking has also been linked with fertility problems.
Birth control pills and progesterone could help balance the hormones causing hair and skin symptoms. This combination of pills can also regulate the menstrual cycle and lower the risk of endometrial cancer.
Eating a balanced diet can help maintain a healthy weight. Exercising every day can help lower risk of cardiovascular complications.
Contact an OB/GYN for unexplained reproductive symptoms such as infrequent menstrual cycles, vaginal bleeding, thirst, excess urination, mood swings, excess hair growth or unexplained weight gain. These symptoms may also be caused by a number of different conditions.
Most PCOS treatments depend on the symptoms and whether a woman is trying to conceive. There is no cure for PCOS, but controlling it reduces the risks of infertility, miscarriages, heart disease, diabetes and uterine cancer.