What is PCOS? Symptoms and treatments for polycystic ovary syndrome – Business Insider Australia

Posted: February 21, 2020 at 11:42 pm

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder in women that can cause irregular periods, abnormal amounts of facial and body hair, infertility, among other symptoms.

The Office on Womens Health reports that PCOS affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age from 15 to 44 years old. And as we understand it, is a lifelong disorder, says Richard Legro, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Public Health Services at the Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health.

Heres what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and symptom relief from PCOS.

The name polycystic ovary syndrome is a slight misnomer because it doesnt involve traditional ovarian cysts. Instead, people affected by PCOS often have a larger-than-average number of tiny follicles in their ovaries that look like small cysts but are not like traditional ovarian cysts. These follicles grow but never fully develop to release eggs. And if no eggs are released, you dont ovulate.

The follicles themselves arent dangerous but the hormonal imbalance they cause can wreak havoc with the persons menstrual cycle. Your body may not produce enough of the female reproductive hormone progesterone to maintain a normal menstrual cycle. As a result, PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women, according to the Endocrine Society.

Though the exact causes of PCOS are unknown, genetics seem to play a key role, though more research is needed to understand by how much this increases a persons risk.

There is also some evidence that environmental factors including exposure to toxins in the environment like plasticizers may contribute to the condition in rare instances.

Obesity has long been thought to be a cause of PCOS, but it may be the case that obesity only aggravates the condition, rather than causes it. That could be because PCOS causes insulin resistance in the body. Regardless of BMI, all women with PCOS have a degree of insulin resistance, but obesity seems to make the condition worse.

Many of the symptoms associated with PCOS are the result of an increase in male hormones, such as testosterone.

Thats because many people with PCOS have insulin resistance in their body, which inhibits the process of sending glucose to cells. As a result, the pancreas has to produce more insulin, which causes problems for the endocrine system and leads the body to ramp up the production of androgens, aka male hormones.

Consequently, you may start having very irregular periods or even stop having periods altogether. You may also put on some extra weight although not every woman with PCOS gains weight.

This excessive amount of androgens also tend to cause you to develop a few other symptoms, notably extra hair on your body and face. The extra hair is what Dr. Legro calls male-patterned hair. Meaning youre not developing a fine layer of hair all over your body. Its hair that appears in areas where men grow body hair, like the middle of the chest, the midline, and the back.

Excess facial hair, hair thinning and balding: thats not normal, says Dr. Legro. Get investigated.

While theres no cure for PCOS, the symptoms of the condition can be abated with various treatments. These treatments include weight loss, birth control pills, and anti-androgen medications.

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What is PCOS? Symptoms and treatments for polycystic ovary syndrome - Business Insider Australia

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