Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

What is Polycystic ovarian syndrome ?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome occurs when small cysts form in the woman’s ovary. The syndrome causes embarrassing and even frustrating symptoms as the affected individuals suffer from overgrowth of body hair, struggle with excess weight, and more importantly, many find it difficult to conceive. The syndrome causes infrequent to no menstruation at all.

PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is a common disorder involving the endocrine gland, but the experts are still puzzled over the root cause of the problem. Because of this, the treatment for PCOS is targeted towards managing the accompanying symptoms. Oftentimes, treatment involves a combination of healthy lifestyle, diet and medications.

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – causes

PCOS develops when a mature egg remains inside the ovary when it is supposed to be released during ovulation. It is not clear why this happens and experts have been studying several theories. One of the theories is related to hormonal imbalance and the hormones involved are FSH (female stimulating hormone) and Androgen. Both hormones play vital roles in the growth and maturation of follicles which will stimulate the release of mature eggs from the ovary. In PCOS, there is insufficient amount of FSH and excess quantity of androgen.

Another theory being studied involves insulin resistance. Insulin regulates the level of blood sugar in the body. With PCOS, the body has trouble using the hormone which results in the overproduction of insulin. Too much insulin likewise leads to excessive amounts of androgen and eventually, obesity.

Aside from the aforementioned, scientists are also establishing the connection between defective genes and PCOS. This is because the syndrome tends to run the family.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and age group of women affected

PCOS occurs in women during their reproductive age, and the age of onset is between 15 and 30 years old. The syndrome affects 1 out of 10 women. Some women are more susceptible to develop the syndrome than others. These women have the risk factors for PCOS, among these are:

  • Family history of PCOS
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Obesity

PCOS should never be taken for granted as it may lead to more serious medical conditions. This is especially important if the affected individual is affected by obesity. Some of the complications that PCOS may give rise to are:

  • Uterine bleeding and endometrial cancer
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Severe liver inflammation

Symptoms of  Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Every woman manifests PCOS in different ways. The most common are:

  • Abnormal menstruation

The most prominent manifestation of PCOS is infrequent menstrual cycle in one year; scanty or heavy menstruation; or menstrual intervals lasting over 35 days.

  • Amenorrhea

This occurs when a woman does not have menstrual flow for several years.

  • Acne breakouts and hair overgrowth

This happens due to the excess amounts of the hormone, androgen. Hair overgrowth is found on the toes, thumbs, chest, back, stomach and even on the face.

  • Infertility

PCOS is the leading cause of infertility among women, making it difficult and even impossible to conceive. This is characterized by irregular or no menstrual flow.

  • Obesity

This is often a result of high quantity of androgen in the body.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Diagnosis

Diagnosing PCOS is quite difficult due to the absence of specific PCOS diagnostic tests. Most likely, the doctor will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s symptoms and medical history and order various tests to rule out any other underlying causes of the symptoms. Checking the patient’s medical history will give the doctor an idea about the weight changes, symptoms and menstrual flow; while the physical exam can help in determining the physical changes like hair overgrowth, high blood pressure and BMI that had occurred. Diagnostic tests like pelvic exam helps in confirming the presence of swollen small cysts in the ovary; blood test for checking the blood sugar level and androgen hormone; and sonogram to check the ovaries and lining of the uterus.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome treatment

The treatment for PCOS is designed based on the unique needs of the patient.  Some of the issues that the treatment will aim to address are:

  • Excess weight
  • Hair overgrowth
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Infertility

Attending to these problems may involve taking prescription medications to help the woman to ovulate, reduce the production of androgen to manage the unsightly hair overgrowth and acne breakouts, and regulate the menstrual cycle. For some women though, losing the excess weight and maintaining the ideal weight is all that is needed to resolve the hormonal imbalance. There are also other treatment methods to resolve acne breakouts and hair overgrowth, and one of the popular ones is electrolysis. If all of these don’t work, laparoscopic ovarian drilling might be done to stimulate ovulation. These treatment options for polycystic ovarian syndrome offer better prognosis when combined with regular exercise and healthy diet to maintain optimum health.


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