10 Common Facts about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility. It is a disorder in women due to a hormonal imbalance. Reports say polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects up to almost 27% of women during their childbearing years.

PCOS is a “syndrome,” or group of symptoms affecting ovaries and ovulation. The word “polycystic” means “many cysts” and a number of small, fluid-filled sacs grow inside the ovaries of women affected with PCOS. 

PCOS leads to enlarged ovaries which have small cysts on the outer edges. The sacs in ovaries which are follicles contain an undeveloped egg each. With PCOS, these eggs never mature enough to result in ovulation and that alters levels of estrogen, progesterone, FSH, and LH. In this syndrome progesterone levels are lower than normal, while androgen levels are higher. The additional secretion of the male hormones disrupt menstrual cycle, hence those afflicted with this condition get fewer periods than usual.

Those afflicted with this syndrome generate greater amounts of male hormones and this imbalance causes irregularity in menstrual cycles and makes it difficult to get pregnant. Women with PCOS get fewer than eight periods a year or none at all. PCOS also causes hair growth on face and body, baldness and in some cases leads to long-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease. 

Here are some common facts about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome –

1. Causes

Even today, the factors causing polycystic ovary syndrome are not well understood. But medical practitioners largely feel that it may involve a mix of genetic and environmental issues. Some experts believe it to be genetic. Studies also show that syndrome runs in families, which means, it is an inherited condition. This is why women with PCOS also usually have a sister or mother who also has it. Many others say that those with PCOS are found to have defects in insulin secretion which is why diabetes is common in women with PCOS. Those affected with polycystic ovary syndrome experience higher levels of inflammation in their body. Obesity can also be a cause of inflammation. Studies also reveal that excess inflammation is linked with higher androgen levels.

2. Symptoms 

Irregular periods – Without ovulation, the uterine lining is not shed every month. 

Heavy bleeding – The uterine lining building up over time leads to heavier than normal periods.

Hair growth – Nearly 70% women with PCOS tend to grow hair on their face, and also on their back, belly, and chest.

Acne – Excess male hormone makes the skin oilier leads to acne on face, chest, and upper back.

Weight gain – It leads to obesity and reports show that nearly 80 % women with PCOS are overweight.

Male pattern baldness – Hair on the scalp of women with PCOS gets thinner and also falls out.

Dark patches on skin – Darkening of skin in body creases like on the neck, or in the groin, and under the breasts is also another common symptom.

Headaches – Hormone imbalances trigger headaches in some women.

3. Diagnosis

Generally there are three criteria that determine the chances of having PCOS – irregular menstrual cycles since puberty, signs of androgen excess which include excessive hair growth, acne and high blood testosterone level. Ultrasound is done to check PCOS appearing ovaries. If you have two of these three criteria, then there are chances that you have polycystic ovary syndrome.  

4. Treatment

Doctors generally use a number of tests and verify your body weight, hair growth, menstrual history, and recommend tests for diabetes, endometrial lining etc to treat PCOS. Treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome largely includes birth control pills which regularise periods, and also medication like diabetes and high cholesterol drugs, hormones to increase fertility and at times procedures to get rid of excess body hair. 

5. Cure 

Polycystic ovary syndrome does not have cure as such but can be managed by means of appropriate treatment depending on symptoms. Often doctors recommend weight loss to improve the symptoms in women affected with PCOS.

6. Who can get PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome in general affects women after the onset of their menstrual cycles or when they hit the age of puberty at around age 11.

7. PCOS and chances of getting pregnant

Polycystic ovary syndrome might affect your chances of getting pregnant, since it is a hormonal imbalance disorder.  PCOS can obstruct normal ovulation and is one of the prime causes for female infertility as well as sub-fertility. Also there is no proven evidence that pregnancy cures PCOS. However, it has been seen that women with PCOS see a pause of symptoms while pregnant. Moreover, many women experience better and more normal menstrual cycles after pregnancy.

8. Health risks

Long term health risks for patients with PCOS are:                                                                   

  • Hypertension                                                
  • Diabetes
  • Impaired glucose tolerance                     
  • MI/CAD
  • Endometrial cancer                        
  • Hypercholesterolemia with low HDL
  • Gestational diabetes                      
  • Sleep apnea                         
  • Depression                                      

Also read: How to Monitor Diabetes and Get Treated Without Going to the Hospital

Those with Polycystic ovary syndrome must get them checked by their doctors annually to monitor these risks.

9. Obesity and pregnancy for those with PCOS

There are chances that losing weight might improve symptoms and help in pregnancy, but there is no guarantee. Doctors agree there are possibilities that losing 10% of your body weight will reduce insulin resistance, which could facilitate ovulation and aid in conception. 

10. Role of IVF or ISCI in getting women with PCOS pregnant

Over the years all over the world, fertility treatments have enabled many women affected with PCOS to get pregnant and become mothers. However, not all with PCOS need expensive IVF treatments. Most conceive with just fertility pills.

PCOS can cause problems for women who are trying to conceive. But with modern, advanced treatments available today from fertility specialists with experience and knowledge of the polycystic ovary syndrome, women have a good chance of getting pregnant.

Also read: Things You Need To Consider While Planning For Pregnancy

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