Women’s Health A-Z
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, known as PCOS for short, is one of the most common ovulatory disorders, accounting for 85% of all cases. While it is very common, we still don’t know exactly what causes it. PCOS causes a hormone imbalance, where your ovaries make more androgens, which are male sex hormones, than normal. The World Health Organization estimates that 116 million women worldwide have PCOS.
It is important to be mindful that symptoms of PCOS can vary widely from woman to woman.
- Increased facial and body hair
- Thinning hair on scalp
- Irregular or infrequent periods
- Pelvic pain
- Weight gain
- Anxiety and/or depression
Diagnosis of PCOS
If you or someone you know is experiencing the above symptoms, it is important that they speak with their physician. When left untreated, PCOS can cause serious health concerns. Of course, there’s also the incentive that many women find symptom relief with treatment.
While there isn’t a PCOS diagnostic test available, your physician can review your medical history, evaluate your symptoms, and perform various examinations. Exams may include a physical and pelvic exam, blood tests to look for sugar and androgen levels, and a vaginal ultrasound to check for cysts on your ovaries, which is the symptom that gives PCOS its name. Most women find out they have PCOS in their 20s or 30s when they have problems getting pregnant, but it can be diagnosed at any age after puberty.
While there isn’t a cure, there are several treatment options that may help ease symptoms and increase the likelihood that you may conceive. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and losing weight may help you feel better and lower your risk of infertility, heart disease, diabetes, and uterine cancer. Quitting smoking or not starting can help too, as smoking increases androgen levels. Medicine to help start ovulation, if you are trying to get pregnant, or birth control hormones, if you aren’t planning on it, may also help regulate your hormones and ease your symptoms.