Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal condition characterised by increased insulin and/or androgen (male hormone) levels. The direct cause of PCOS is unknown but it is thought to be multifactorial with family history, insulin resistance and lifestyle factors all contributing. ‘Polycystic’ literally translates as ‘many cysts’, however in the case of PCOS this really refers to there being many partially formed follicles on the ovaries, each containing an egg that rarely grows to maturity or becomes fertilised.
PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility, affecting approximately 12-20% of women in their reproductive years (between late adolescence and menopause) - with about 70% of cases remaining undiagnosed.
Up to 1/3 of women may have polycystic ovaries seen on an ultrasound, but they do not all have the syndrome. To be diagnosed with PCOS, women need to have a hormonal imbalance and present with some of the symptoms listed below:
🩸 Irregular menstrual cycles/Amenorrhea (no periods)
👩🦰 Hirsutism – excessive facial or body hair growth (or both)
👩🦲 Alopecia – thinning hair or baldness
🤰 Reduced fertility (difficulty falling pregnant)
🤷♀️ Mood changes (including anxiety and depression)
⚖️ Easy weight gain/difficulty losing weight
🥱 Sleep Apnoea
Women with PCOS also have a higher risk than other women of developing health problems such as:
• Type 2 Diabetes • High Cholesterol • Heart Disease • Endometrial Cancer
The diagnosis of PCOS is usually difficult because there is a wide range of symptoms and you don't have to have them all. In order to diagnose you, your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms as well as send you for the following tests:
• Blood Tests
* To check hormone levels (such as testosterone)
* To check cholesterol and glucose levels in the blood • Ultrasound Scan
* To look at the ovaries and check for cysts
Depending on the symptoms you experience, management of PCOS can include:
🍏 Healthy lifestyle modifications
🚴♀️ Weight reduction
💊 Medical treatment
PCOS is associated with several other health problems, and whilst it can’t be cured it most certainly can be managed! If you suspect that you may have PCOS seek help from your Dr and together you can find the way to best manage YOUR symptoms and avoid/minimise any long-term health risks!