What is polycystic ovary syndrome? Why does it happen? What are the symptoms? How is it diagnosed and treated? Which doctor should I go to? Is it a serious situation? Is it possible to get pregnant? Are there any good things? You can find the answers to all these questions and much more below.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels. Women with PCOS produce more male hormones than usual. This hormone imbalance causes them to skip periods and makes it harder for them to get pregnant.
Polycystic ovary syndrome also causes hair growth and baldness on the face and body. It can contribute to long-term health problems such as diabetes (diabetes) and heart disease.
Birth control pills and diabetes medications can help correct the hormone imbalance and improve symptoms.
Read on to take a look at the causes of PCOS and the effects it can have on a woman’s body.
What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal problem that affects women in their childbearing years (15-44 years). Between 2.2 and 26.7 percent of women in this age group have PCOS. Many women have PCOS but do not know it. In one study , up to 70% of women with PCOS were undiagnosed, meaning they didn’t know they had the condition.
PCOS affects a woman’s ovaries, reproductive organs that produce estrogen and progesterone (hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle). The ovaries also produce small amounts of male hormones called androgens.
The ovaries release eggs for a man’s sperm to fertilize. The release of an egg each month is called ovulation. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) control ovulation. FSH stimulates the ovary to produce a follicle (a sac containing an egg), and then LH triggers the ovary to release a mature egg.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a “syndrome” or group of symptoms that affects the ovaries and ovulation. It has three main features:
- Cysts in the ovaries
- High levels of male hormones
- Irregular or missed menstrual periods
In PCOS, small, fluid-filled sacs grow inside the ovaries. The word “polycystic” means “many cysts”, that is, sacs. These sacs are actually follicles, each containing an immature egg.
The eggs are not mature enough to trigger ovulation. Lack of ovulation alters estrogen, progesterone, FSH, and LH levels. Estrogen and progesterone levels are lower than normal, while androgen levels are higher than normal. Extra male hormones disrupt the menstrual cycle, so women with PCOS have fewer periods than usual.
SUMMARY: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects almost 27 percent of women in their birth years. This condition includes cysts in the ovaries, high levels of male hormones, and irregular periods.
What causes polycystic ovary syndrome?
Doctors do not know exactly what causes PCOS. They believe that high levels of male hormones prevent the ovaries from producing hormones and normally making eggs.
Genes, insulin resistance and inflammation have been associated with excessive androgen production.
Studies have emphasized that PCOS is seen in families with a genetic predisposition. Many genes – not just one – are likely to contribute to the condition.
Up to 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which means their cells cannot use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to help the body use sugar from food for energy.
When cells cannot use insulin properly, the body’s demand for insulin increases. The pancreas makes more insulin to compensate. The extra insulin triggers the ovaries to produce more male hormones.
Obesity is an important cause of insulin resistance. Both obesity and insulin resistance can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes .
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome often have increased levels of inflammation in their bodies. Being overweight can also contribute to inflammation. Studies have linked excessive inflammation to higher androgen levels.
SUMMARY: Doctors don’t know exactly what causes PCOS. They believe it is due to factors such as genes, insulin resistance, and higher levels of inflammation in the body.
What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome?
Some women begin to experience symptoms during their first menstrual period. Others only discover they have PCOS after gaining too much weight or having trouble getting pregnant. The most common symptoms are:
- Irregular menstrual periods: Lack of ovulation also leads to lack of menstrual periods. Some women with PCOS may not even have eight menstrual periods per year.
- Heavy bleeding: Your menstrual blood builds up for a longer period of time, so your periods may be heavier than usual.
- Hair growth: More than 70% of women with this condition grow hair on their face and body, including on the back, abdomen, and chest. Excessive hair growth is called hirsutism .
- Acne: Male hormones can make the skin oilier than normal and cause acne on areas such as the face, chest, and upper back.
- Weight gain: Up to 80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese.
- Male pattern baldness: The hair on the scalp becomes thinner and falls out.
- Darkening of the skin: Dark patches of skin can occur on the neck, groin, and body areas under the breasts.
- Headache: Hormone changes can trigger headaches in some women.
SUMMARY: Polycystic ovary syndrome can disrupt the menstrual cycle and lead to fewer menstrual periods. Acne, hair growth, weight gain, and dark patches of skin are other symptoms of the condition.
When should you see a doctor?
You should consult your doctor if:
- If you miss your periods and can’t get pregnant
- If you have symptoms of PCOS such as hair growth on your face and body
- If you are trying to get pregnant for more than 12 months but are unsuccessful
- If you have symptoms of diabetes such as extreme thirst, hunger, blurred vision, or unexplained weight loss
If you have PCOS, schedule regular visits with your doctor. You will need regular tests to check for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other possible complications.
How does polycystic ovary syndrome affect the body?
Having higher than normal androgen levels can affect your fertility and other aspects of your health.
You have to ovulate to get pregnant. Women who do not ovulate regularly do not release enough eggs to be fertilized. Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
Up to 80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Both obesity and PCOS increase your risk of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, low cholesterol, and high cholesterol. Together, these factors are called the metabolic syndrome and increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
This causes repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night, which interrupts sleep. Sleep apnea is more common in overweight women – especially if they have PCOS. The risk of sleep apnea is 5 to 10 times higher in obese women with PCOS than in those without PCOS.
During ovulation, the uterine lining is shed. If you don’t ovulate every month, this lining can build up. Thickened uterine lining can increase your risk of endometrial cancer.
Both hormonal changes and symptoms such as unwanted hair growth can negatively affect your emotions. Many people with PCOS experience depression and anxiety.
SUMMARY: Hormone imbalances can affect women’s health in many ways. PCOS can increase the risk of infertility, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, endometrial cancer, and depression.
Pregnancy and polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome interrupts the normal menstrual cycle and makes it harder to get pregnant. Between 70 and 80% of women with PCOS have fertility problems. This condition can also increase the risk of pregnancy complications.
Women with PCOS are at twice the risk of delivering their babies prematurely than normal women. They are also at greater risk for miscarriage, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes.
However, women with PCOS can get pregnant using fertility treatments that improve ovulation. Losing weight and lowering blood sugar levels can increase the odds of having a healthy pregnancy.
SUMMARY: PCOS can make it harder to get pregnant and increase your risk of pregnancy complications and miscarriage. Weight loss and other treatments can increase your odds of having a healthy pregnancy.
How is polycystic ovary syndrome diagnosed?
Doctors usually diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome in women who have at least two of the following three symptoms:
- high androgen levels
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Cysts in the ovaries
Your doctor will also ask if you have symptoms such as acne, facial and body hair growth, and weight gain.
A pelvic exam can show any problems with your ovaries or other parts of your reproductive tract. During this test, your doctor inserts gloved fingers into your vagina and checks for any growths on your ovaries or uterus.
Blood tests check for higher-than-normal male hormones. He or she may also order a blood test to check cholesterol, insulin, and triglyceride levels to assess your risk for heart disease and related conditions such as diabetes.
An ultrasound can show abnormal follicles and can be used for other problems with the ovaries and uterus.
SUMMARY: Doctors diagnose PCOS if women have at least two of the three main symptoms (high androgen levels, irregular menstrual periods, and cysts on the ovaries). A pelvic exam, blood tests, and ultrasound can confirm the diagnosis.
How is polycystic ovary syndrome treated?
Birth control pills and other medications can help regulate the menstrual cycle and treat PCOS symptoms such as hair growth and acne.
- Birth control : Taking estrogen and progestin daily can restore a normal hormone balance, regulate ovulation, relieve symptoms such as excessive hair growth, and protect against endometrial cancer.
- Metformin : Metformin is a drug used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It also treats PCOS by improving insulin levels. One study found that taking metformin while making changes to diet and exercise improved weight loss, lowered blood sugar, and made a normal menstrual cycle better than changes in diet and exercise alone.
- Clomiphene : Clomiphene is a fertility drug that can help women with PCOS get pregnant. However, it increases the risk of twins and other multiple births.
- Medicines for hair : Several treatments can help get rid of unwanted hair or stop it from growing. Eflornithine cream is a prescription drug that slows hair growth. Laser hair removal and electrolysis can help you get rid of unwanted facial and body hair.
Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.
Surgery may be an option to improve fertility if other treatments don’t work. Ovarian piercing is a procedure that makes small holes in the ovary with a laser or thin heated needle to restore normal ovulation.
Diet and lifestyle tips
Treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome usually begins with lifestyle changes such as weight loss, diet, and exercise . Just losing 10% of your body weight can regulate your menstrual cycle and help improve symptoms. Weight loss can also improve cholesterol levels, reduce insulin, and reduce the risks of heart disease and diabetes. Any diet that helps you lose weight can help your condition.
However, some diets may have advantages over others. Studies comparing diets for PCOS have found that low-carb diets are effective at both weight loss and lowering insulin levels. A low glycemic index diet with the most carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and whole grains helps regulate the menstrual cycle better than a regular weight loss diet.
Several studies have found that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least three days a week can help women with PCOS lose weight. Losing weight with exercise also improves ovulation and insulin levels. Exercise is even more beneficial when combined with a healthy diet. Diet plus exercise helps you lose more weight than either intervention and lowers your risks of diabetes and heart disease.
There is some evidence that acupuncture may help improve polycystic ovarian syndrome, but more research is needed.
SUMMARY: Treatment for PCOS begins with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. If you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help improve your symptoms.
As a result
Polycystic ovary syndrome can disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycles and make it harder to get pregnant. High levels of male hormones also lead to unwanted symptoms such as facial and body hair growth.
Lifestyle interventions are the first treatments doctors recommend for PCOS, and they usually work well. Weight loss can treat PCOS symptoms and increase the chances of getting pregnant. Diet and aerobic exercise are two effective ways to lose weight.
Medications are also an option if lifestyle changes don’t work. Birth control pills and metformin can restore more normal menstrual cycles and relieve PCOS symptoms. But this will be decided by the doctor.
Frequently asked Questions
Does polycystic ovary syndrome go away on its own?
PCOS does not go away on its own. Even after menopause, women with PCOS often continue to have high levels of androgens, as well as insulin resistance. This means that the health risks associated with PCOS are lifelong.
What happens if polycystic ovary syndrome is not treated?
If PCOS is not treated, it can increase the risk of endometrial cancer. In this case, the ovary does not ovulate regularly, meaning that the eggs are not released as they should. As a result, insufficient progesterone is produced, which causes the lining of the uterus to grow uncontrollably.
How long does polycystic ovary syndrome treatment take?
Taking progestins for 10 to 14 days every 1-2 months can regulate your periods and protect against endometrial cancer and does not prevent pregnancy.
Can a pregnant woman with polycystic ovary syndrome get pregnant?
Women with PCOS may have trouble getting pregnant and are at higher risk of developing complications during pregnancy. However, by managing symptoms, many women with PCOS can become pregnant and have a healthy baby.
Does polycystic ovary syndrome cause miscarriage?
Women with PCOS are three times more likely to have a miscarriage in the first months of pregnancy than women without PCOS. Some research shows that metformin may reduce the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women with PCOS.
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