Polycystic Ovarian Disease Or Syndrome(PCOS)
It is alco called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS, Polycystic
Ovary Syndrome, Polycystic Ovary Disease which all describe the
characteristic polycystic ovaries seen in these women. The original
name, not commonly used today, is Stein-Leventhal syndrome.
disease manifestations can be varied but its most troubling practical
features are the changes in your outlook, difficulties becoming
pregnant and irregular periods.
Since no definite cure
exist at the moment, your understanding of the disease will go a long
way to help in controlling the symptoms and preventing complications.
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition in which there is an
imbalance of a woman’s sex hormones. It affects women of child brearing
age( 12 to 45 years). The imbalance of female sex hormones then lead
to many abnormalities like irregular periods, infertility, abnormal hair
growth, polycystic ovaries ( ovaries with many tiny balloons
containing fluid) and even other potential problems like diabetes. The
ovaries are the chief organs responsible for this condition, though not
It is partly genetic and therefore tends to occur in families.
How Many Women Have PCOS?
The polycystic ovarian disease is thought to affect between 1 in 10 and 1
in 20 women of childbearing age. That is about 5% to 10%. In the
United States alone, about 5 million women are estimated to be
suffering from it. Though women are usually diagnosed when in their 20s
or 30s, symptoms often occur when the periods first begin at menarche.
It can be as early as 11 years in some girls. It is not uncommon for
women with this disease to have a sister or mom with symptoms similar
to those of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Causes Of PCOS
I always hate saying it to women with troubling symptoms. The cause
of the polycystic ovarian disease is not known. Wha–t? That does not
mean there are no remedies to manage the symptoms. It is known that the
symptoms are due to hormonal imbalance but the underlying cause of this
hormonal imbalance remains a mystery to medical science at the moment.
However, it is now well known that there is a genetic component to it. It can be hereditary.
are chemical messengers that transmit messages from one organ to
another like the Post Office that carries mails from one house to
another.Nerves are also messengers but they are like mobile phones in
transmitting their message, not slow like the post office!
the ovaries produce small amounts of male hormones called androgens as
well as normal large quantities of female hormones. The sex hormones
control growth and functioning of sexual organs as well as other parts
such as the hair and skin. In polycystic ovarian disease, these sex
hormones get out of balance. Androgens are produced in large quantities
leading to masculinization,disorders of the menstrual cycle and
infertlity. The function of insulin is also affected causing a risk of
obesity and diabetes.
The manifestation of the polycystic ovarian disease can be multiple.
The symptoms present and their severity vary from one woman to another.
Common symptoms include
- Menstrual cycle problem:This includes no periods, few periods(oligomenorrhea) or heavy bleeding.
- Male sex characteristics including deepening of the voice, enlargement of the clitoris, male pattern of hair on chest,face and head.
- Skin changes: acne and dark or thick skin markings and creases around the armpits, groin, neck, and breasts due to insulin sensitivity
Diagnosis of PCOS
The polycystic ovarian disease is diagnosed by your doctor. It is not
a made at home, a friend or relative who might have similar symptoms.
The procedures that would be done by the doctor include
- Clinical examination including asking you questions and examining your body
- Laboratory tests including measurement of hormones, lipids and blood sugar.
- Imaging tests: Pelvic ultrasound to look for polycystic ovaries.
Since there is no single treatment that would eradicate PCOS, all
treatment strategies are aimed at controlling symptoms present and
preventing complications. This means whatever treatments you will
receive will be determined by what symptoms are most troublesome for
you, like irregular periods, infertility or excess hair.
basically three groups of therapy availible: lifestyle measures
recommended or everyone, medical therapy to control your specific
symptoms or surgery.
- Lifestyle measures. This includes regular exercise, controlling your weight and heart-healthy eating.
- Medical therapy. Drugs are specifically available to control each of the dominant PCOS symptoms like infertility and irregular periods.
- Surgery.A procedure called ovarian drilling could be done to help ovulation.
PCOS And Pregnancy
It is possible to get pregnant with PCOS either spontaneously or with
treatment, and to take the pregnancy to term.Plan the pregnancy closely
with your doctor. I have had some interesting cases of women who are on
birth control pills or injections to regulate their cycle and were
expecting to be pregnant “now that the cycles are regular with these
medications!” However, PCOS not only causes in infertility but can lead
to pregnancy complications like miscariages, gestational diabetes and
premature deliveries. Close obstetric follw-up is required for any PCOS
The polycystic ovarian syndrome puts a woman at risk for the following
- Increased risk of cancers such as endometrial and possibly breast cancers.
- Infertility. Appropriate treatment given early will help many women be able to become pregnant.
Obesity-related (BMI over 30 and waist circumference greater than
35) conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and
Resources For Further Reading
US residents could easily call the phone numbers of each
authoritative body for additional help. If you are out of the US, you
can visit the websites below for more information and find out if your
country has organizations you could call if you need to.
US DHS Office On Women’s Health
Phone:800-994-9662 (TDD: 888-220-5446)
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE)
American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
Return From Polycystic Ovarian Disease to Menstruation Home
Living With PCOS May Really Be Challenging. How do You Cope With It? What Are Some Success Tips?
If you have some practical tips coping with the symptoms of PCOS, sharing them may help many other women with this condition. Share your experience.
Leave a Reply