Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

PCOS is a health problem that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, fertility, hormones, insulin production, heart, blood vessels, and appearance. Women with PCOS have these characteristics:

  • high levels of male hormones, also called androgens
  • an irregular or no menstrual cycle
  • may or may not have many small cysts in their ovaries. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs.

PCOS is the most common hormonal reproductive problem in women of childbearing age.

What causes Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

No one knows the exact cause of PCOS. Women with PCOS frequently have a mother or sister with PCOS. But there is not yet enough evidence to say there is a genetic link to this disorder. Many women with PCOS have a weight problem. So researchers are looking at the relationship between PCOS and the body’s ability to make insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body’s use or for storage. Since some women with PCOS make too much insulin, it’s possible that the ovaries react by making too many male hormones, called androgens. This can lead to acne, excessive hair growth, weight gain, and ovulation problems.

What are the symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

These are some of the symptoms of PCOS:

  • infrequent menstrual periods, no menstrual periods, and/or irregular bleeding
  • infertility or inability to get pregnant because of not ovulating
  • increased growth of hair on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes
  • acne, oily skin, or dandruff
  • pelvic pain
  • weight gain or obesity, usually carrying extra weight around the waist
  • type 2 diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
  • patches of thickened and dark brown or black skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs
  • skin tags, or tiny excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
  • sleep apnea?excessive snoring and breathing stops at times while asleep

Does Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) put women at risk for other conditions?

Women with PCOS can be at an increased risk for developing several other conditions. Irregular menstrual periods and the absence of ovulation cause women to produce the hormone estrogen, but not the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, which causes the endometrium to shed each month as a menstrual period, the endometrium becomes thick, which can cause heavy bleeding or irregular bleeding. Eventually, this can lead to endometrial hyperplasia or cancer. Women with PCOS are also at higher risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Getting the symptoms under control at an earlier age may help to reduce this risk.