What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, also called polycystic ovary syndrome and polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) is a
kind of hormonal imbalance in a woman's body. Excessive male hormones (such as testosterone) and irregular
ovulation or no ovulation are main features in this disease. The hormone LH is also frequently found to be
excessive in women who have PCOS. LH is a hormone that triggers ovulation and and is secreted by the pituitary
gland in the brain. When LH is too high it can result in the ovaries releasing too much of the male hormones that
cause the hormonal imbalance in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Multiple, small cysts on ovaries is one of the most common PCOS
symptoms but by itself does not mean a women has the disease.
PCOS is not the same
condition as polycystic ovaries PCO. It was once believed that having polycystic ovaries meant a women had PCOS.
This is no longer true.
Many women with polycystic ovaries do not have PCOS. Further, not all women with PCOS have polycystic ovaries
but most do. The presence of the three main PCOS symptoms (excessive male hormones, abnormal ovulation, and
multiple cysts) together is a strong indication of polycystic ovarian syndrome. A variety of other PCOS symptoms
are common but not required to confirm diagnosis.
Who is affected by polycystic ovarian syndrome?
An estimated 1 in every 10 or 20 women in their childbearing years (12-50 typically) are affected with PCOS. The
disease seems to occur in women of all ethnicities and genetic backgrounds. Symptoms may start about the time of
puberty in women and are often accompanied by menstrual problems or abnormalities. PCOS also occurs commonly in
older women who become infertile or who have the set of symptoms characterized by this disease.
What causes pcos?
It is not known for certain what causes PCOS. However, some conditions are strongly linked to PCOS including
diabetes, insulin resistance and obesity. Many women with PCOS have blood insulin levels higher than normal and are
insulin resistant. It is believed abnormal insulin levels may be the cause of excessive male hormones, but LH as
mentioned previously is also responsible for hormonal imbalance.
Because women with PCOS have abnormal ovulation (monthly egg release) they will not have regular periods and may
have fertility problems. PCOS symptoms thus are usually associated with menstrual problems. In fact, if you don't
have irregular or no menstrual periods you probably do not have PCOS. Late periods, fewer periods, or no periods
for at least 3 months are typical menstrual problems related to PCOS.
There are several other symptoms associated with PCOS. Not all women will have the same symptoms and some women
may have no other symptoms besides menstrual problems. The severity of symptoms also varies greatly among women.
Like ovarian cyst symptoms, PCOS symptoms can vary widely from mild to severe or even life
- irregular periods or having no periods
- difficulty conceiving
- skin changes including oily skin, acne, and skin blemishes
- weight gain and obesity
- higher insulin levels and insulin resistance
- hair changes such as unusual hair growth, baldness and dandruff
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- several small cysts on ovaries (polycystic ovaries)
Will PCOS go away on its own?
No. PCOS symptoms will continue and the disease will only get worse. If you don't do something about it are you
at risk for a number of different diseases including but not limited to: endometrial cancer, Type II diabetes and
insulin resistance, weight gain, depression, anxiety, high blood pressures, strokes, and miscarriage.
There are a number of different PCOS treatment options available but some may not be appropriate for you. You
need to get the right PCOS treatment for your age, your health goals, and plans for having children (see PCOS and
pregnancy). PCOS treatment options range from drugs (many with dangerous side effects), to strict diet and weight
loss, to surgical drilling of the ovaries. Alternative treatments are also available and have been successful in
PCOS and Pregnancy
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. Some women are
getting pregnant with PCOS and do it without complications. However, there is a high risk of miscarriage, as much
as 50% or more in women with the disease. PCOS and pregnancy is possible but first you should understand the risks
completely, and then seek to get treatment of your PCOS symptoms.