Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder. It affects millions of women of reproductive age worldwide. It is a hormonal disorder that affects how your ovaries work. It can also cause acne, excessive hair growth on the face and body, as well as insulin resistance. Many women who have PCOS have difficulty getting pregnant (infertility).
Symptoms of PCOS
The signs and symptoms of PCOS can vary widely, from small to large. In fact, many women don’t realize they have it until they have trouble getting pregnant.
A wide range of signs and symptoms can occur with PCOS. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods
- Excessive hair growth (on face, chest, or back)
- Weight gain or obesity that is often centered on the abdomen
- Acne or oily skin
- Female pattern baldness or thinning hair
- Patches of thickened and dark brown or black skin on the neck, armpits, breasts, or groin area (acanthosis nigricans)
- Skin tags
PCOS risk factors
PCOS is most often diagnosed in women between the ages of 18 and 24. Although doctors aren’t sure what causes PCOS, some factors that may play a role include:
- Family history
- High levels of male hormones
- Type 2 diabetes
- Low-grade inflammation
- Excess androgen production by the ovaries
- High blood pressure
PCOS can be tough to diagnose because there’s no specific test for it. A diagnosis is typically based on physical signs, medical and reproductive history, and lab tests.
Your doctor may recommend:
- Blood tests– These tests help quantify blood sugar levels. The doctors also look at hormone levels to determine whether you’re ovulating regularly.
- An ultrasound of your pelvis– This imaging technique uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your pelvic organs on a monitor. It helps distinguish between small cysts and larger cysts caused by PCOS, as well as rule out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms, such as a thyroid problem or tumor.
There’s no cure for PCOS, but treatment might relieve your symptoms. Treatment options might include:
- Lifestyle changes– Losing weight can reduce insulin and androgen levels and may restore ovulation. Eating a healthy diet that’s low in sugar and fat can help you lose weight and lower your risk of heart disease. Exercising regularly might also help you manage symptoms of PCOS by reducing insulin levels and promoting weight loss.
- Medication– Birth control pills can treat irregular menstrual periods and excess hair growth when given at low doses. Different medications may help manage high blood pressure or high cholesterol if they’re associated with PCOS. If you’re trying to get pregnant, fertility medications might increase your chances of conception.
These are just the basic information about PCOS. If you’re experiencing any forms of symptoms, have more questions, or are dealing with other reproductive health issues, get in touch with an experienced gynecologist. Consult them and address all your queries and concerns.