Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Causes and Symptoms
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is an emerging health related issue in women. It is found to affect 1 in every 10 women of reproductive age. PCOS is defined as a condition in which the levels of sex hormones in a woman’s body fluctuate away from the norm causing the formation of multiple cysts in the ovaries. Female sex hormones, predominantly, estrogen and progesterone trigger the sexual development in a woman and initiate our menstrual cycle as we move towards puberty. In PCOS, the body has elevated levels of androgens or male hormones that cause the associated Causes and Symptoms of the disease.
About 5 percent to 10 percent of women face infertility due to polycystic ovaries. This condition is most commonly an incidental finding that may present on ultrasound when women visit the doctor with complains of irregular menstrual cycles or the inability to get pregnant. Other diagnostic test includes blood tests to check for elevated circulating levels of androgens in the body. Some of the most commons signs in women with PCOS are extra hair on the face, chin and body, acne and thinning of scalp hair. Women may also complain of irregular menstrual cycles with periods that either come too often, not enough or not at all. Pelvic pain, dark patches on skin, excessive weight gain and depression are also common.
One of the signs of PCOS includes increase in insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that helps your body use and store all the glucose you consume. If your body becomes resistant to it, all the glucose will float in your blood causing type II diabetes.
The exact etiology of PCOS is unknown, however, it is found to be prevalent in women with a genetic predisposition to it. They are more likely to develop it if their mother and sisters have it too. Other risk factors include obesity and a lack of physical exercise. This is because obese women already have high circulating levels of cholesterol which the body uses to form androgens. The higher the level of circulating androgens, the more severe the disease will be.
It is unfortunate to note that PCOS is a disease without cure. Its treatment is more towards managing the signs and symptoms and making the quality of life better for those suffering from it. A combination of healthy diet and regular exercise is recommended, especially to those who are overweight. Anti-androgen medication can be prescribed to help decrease excessive facial hair growth as well as acne. Women who do not want to get pregnant can be prescribed birth control pills which will help regulate the menstrual cycles, decrease cramps and lower the level of testosterone in the body whilst normalizing the levels of estrogen and progesterone. Diabetic medications may also be prescribed to bring down the level of glucose in the body.
Women who suffer from PCOS and want to conceive may need the help of fertility specialists and require special treatments such as in vitro fertilization where the egg is extracted, fertilized with the husband’s sperm and put back inside the body. Compared to other treatment options, this has the highest success rate. Other options are taking medication to help your body ovulate by itself or to get a surgery where holes are drilled on to the surface of the ovary to help the egg get released. This however, is a temporary fix and may last only 6 to months.