What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a condition that is characterized by the abnormal production of androgens. These are male sex hormones that women DO have in small amounts, but in larger amounts can result in fluid-filled sacs called cysts forming in the ovaries. The ovaries can experience other issues, especially related to ovulation.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but there are some theories. Many women who experience PCOS also have insulin resistance, which means their bodies do not utilize insulin properly. When insulin builds up, it is thought that it can cause an increase in androgen levels too. Because of this, obesity can worsen symptoms.
PCOS is also thought to be hereditary. If you have a sister, mother, or even aunt with this condition, you are more likely to have it as well. Between 5% and 10% of women 15 to 44 have polycystic ovary syndrome and many only find out once they speak to their doctor about issues having children.
There are many symptoms of this condition and not every patient has the same ones. It is important to speak with your doctor to rule out any other health issues that share the same symptoms.
Infertility issues related to PCOS result from ovulation problems. Healthy ovulation happens when an egg is successfully released from the ovary. Some women do not have enough hormones to ovulate, which can result in cysts and other symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Your doctor will start by doing a physical exam and getting your medical and family history if they don’t already have them. Because other conditions share symptoms with PCOS, they will want to rule anything else out. This means you will likely have testing including an ultrasound to check the size of the ovaries (and for cysts) as well as the thickness of the uterine lining. Blood tests could be ordered, too, to check blood glucose levels, triglycerides, androgen levels, and cholesterol.
Unfortunately, treating PCOS isn’t as simple as taking a medication. Your doctor will look at your age, the severity of your symptoms, and your general health. Changes in fitness and diet can help you lose weight, which can help with insulin use, lower your blood glucose levels, and help with ovulation.
There are medications that can help with infertility issues caused by PCOS. They are meant to help increase the chances of healthy ovulation, but they can come with side effects. These include the increased chance for multiple births (like twins) and ovarian hyperstimulation, which can result in pelvic pain and bloating.
For women who don’t plan on becoming pregnant, there are some other treatments that can be used.
Many women have questions about the symptoms caused by PCOS and the condition in general. If you have questions, it is best to speak with a healthcare professional. But, here are some common questions and answers about polycystic ovary syndrome.
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