PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – ranks as one of the most common problems Gynecologists see in their patients.
“Two major factors seem to trigger this problem in your body,” says McLeod OB/GYN Dr. Monica Ploetzke. “One, a woman experiences excessive androgen – the male hormone. Or two, it may be abnormal insulin activity. Insulin is the hormone that enables your body to use sugar, which means women with PCOS are at risk of type 2 diabetes.
This hormonal imbalance affects many systems in the body, leading to a wide range of symptoms, including:
The effects of PCOS might also surface as other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, thickening of the uterus lining, or even endometrial cancer. Fluid-filled sacs (cysts) can form when the eggs are not released.
WHY DOES ALL THIS HAPPEN?
The actual cause remains unclear. However, experts believe that genetics play a role. As a result, if your mother, sister or aunt suffered PCOS, your risk increases. Most often, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is discovered when a woman is in her 20s or 30s.
Physicians know that when a woman has too much male hormone, the ovaries don’t release eggs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. These missed or irregular periods lead to fertility issues. A woman’s menstrual cycles may become more regular as she approaches menopause, but the PCOS hormone imbalance does not change. Other symptoms may continue.
To diagnose PCOS, your doctor will look for the visible symptoms, may do a pelvic exam and/or ultrasound, as well as conduct blood tests to check your androgen, insulin and cholesterol levels. Your Gynecologist may also check thyroid levels, because thyroid symptoms can appear similar to PCOS.
For women NOT trying to get pregnant, your Gynecologist may recommend hormonal birth control of some type to help regulate your menstrual cycle, reduce acne and decrease hair symptoms. Pills or creams to reduce abnormal hair growth can be prescribed.
For women trying to get pregnant. Your Gynecologist may recommend medication that will help you ovulate. Sometimes, simply losing weight will help. Other times, you may be referred to an infertility specialist, who might try IVF or some other technique to help you get pregnant.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
Find a Gynecologist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, US Office of Women’s Health, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, National Health Service (UK), Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists