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.

What causes Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

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.

Common symptoms of PCOS

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.

  • Missed, irregular, or extremely light periods
  • Excess body hair on the chest, stomach, or back (this is known as hirsutism)
  • Male pattern balding
  • Large or multiple cysts on the ovaries
  • Oily skin or acne
  • Weight gain, especially localized around the belly area
  • Skin tags or darker patches of skin under the armpits and breasts or back of the neck
  • Infertility

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.

Diagnosing 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.

Treatments to help with PCOS

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.

  1. Birth control pills will help you handle acne and decrease androgen levels, as well as control your menstrual cycles.
  2. Diabetes medicines are used by patients with PCOS to reduce insulin resistance. They can also decrease androgen levels, slow hair growth, and help with ovulation.

Common questions and answers about PCOS

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.

  • When should I go to the doctor to talk about PCOS? If you have irregular or missed periods, excess hair growth, weight gain, or acne, speak with your doctor.
  • Are there any complications? Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome are more likely to develop serious health conditions. Heart problems, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even uterine cancer.
  • Can I get pregnant if I have PCOS? Although this condition often affects fertility, you can still get pregnant if you have it. The amount of hormones your body produces is what affects your ability to get pregnant.
  • Does this condition affect pregnancy? Unfortunately, pregnant women with PCOS have a higher chance of miscarriage, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. Your baby may have a higher chance of macrosomia (being heavy) and may need to stay in the NICU. You can help prevent these issues by reducing your weight before pregnancy, having healthy blood sugar, and taking folic acid.
  • Does PCOS go away when I hit menopause? Because this condition affects hormone production, many women find that their menstrual cycles become more regular when they are in perimenopause. But, not all the symptoms will go away. Also, your chances of getting other health conditions associated with PCOS increase as you age.

Do you need to speak with a doctor about PCOS?

At Women’s Healthcare Associates, our mission is to treat all of our patients with dignity and the best services possible. No matter your health concerns, we are here for you! You can reach us at (806) 355-6330 to learn about our Services or schedule an appointment today.

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Website design and marketing by UCI Digital