Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common disorder affecting women generally during their childbearing years. Hormonal imbalance, especially of female sexual hormones, is the prime cause for PCOS. This imbalance affects ovaries, disrupts menstrual cycles, and manifests various other characteristics. If untreated, it creates other systemic problems in the long run. PCOS is also known as polyfollicular ovarian disease, polycystic ovarian disease, and Stein-Leventhal syndrome.
Who can get PCOS
It is estimated that one-fourth of women in childbearing age are affected by PCOS. The symptoms can manifest as early as in the teen years or anytime during childbearing years. Risk factors can be higher for women with a family history of
- Irregular periods.
- Diabetes, insulin resistance.
- Early baldness in male members, before 30 years.
Though it is less common in older and almost nil in post-menopausal women, if untreated, the consequences of PCOS last even long after menopause.
The exact cause for PCOS is not known. PCOS affects the ovaries and pituitary gland resulting in hormonal imbalance and excess androgen production. This imbalance stops ovulating process and interferes with egg production and menstrual cycle resulting in heavy and irregular periods, non-ovulation and infertility. The excess androgen – male hormone – spurts facial and body hair growth, cause acne, obesity and insulin resistance.
PCOS & infertility
In women with PCOS, very small innumerable cysts are formed in the ovaries. Normally eggs in the follicular sacs mature to be ready for fertilization, and later on released during menses with hormones regulating the egg growth, maturity and release of the legs. But in women with PCOS, these eggs in follicles do not mature but become cysts in the ovaries and result in infertility.
Symptoms of PCOS
The most important characteristic is enlarged ovaries filled with cysts. The hormone imbalance – without any apparent cause – triggers the onset and also causes PCOS symptoms like
- Heavy, scanty and/or irregular menstrual periods.
- Excess hair growth – facial as well body hair.
- Hair loss
Seeking medical consult & treatment
If you have some of the above symptoms, consulting a gynecologist/endocrinologist can help. Your doctor will look at your menstrual history, family susceptibility, and other symptoms. He will get blood tests, pelvic exam and a vaginal ultrasound. Lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment followed by medications as needed.