Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments!

Polycystic ovary syndrome , is a condition in which a woman’s levels of sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone are out of balance. This leads to the growth of ovarian cysts (benign masses on the ovaries). Additionally,  polycystic ovary syndrome can cause problems with women’s menstrual cycle, fertility, heart function, and appearance. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, between 1 in 10 and 3 in 20 women of childbearing age suffer from  polycystic ovary syndrome  The condition currently affects up to 5 million women in the United States.

What Causes Polycystic Ovary Syndrome:  While the exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is not known, doctors believe that hormonal imbalances and genetics play a role. Women are more likely to develop  PCOS if their mother or sister also has the condition.

Hormonal androgen overproduction may be another contributing factor. Androgen is a male sex hormone that women’s bodies also produce. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome often produce higher than normal androgen levels. This can affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation. Too much insulin (a hormone that helps convert sugars and starches into energy) can cause high androgen levels.

Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome:  Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome usually start right after a woman starts menstruating. The type and severity of symptoms varies from person to person. The most common feature of polycystic ovary syndrome is irregular menstruation.

Since polycystic ovary syndrome is marked by a decrease in female sex hormones, this condition can cause women to develop certain masculine characteristics, such as:

  • Excess hair on the face, chest, stomach, thumbs or fingers
  • Decreased breast size
  • deeper voice
  • Thin hair

Other symptoms include:

  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • pelvic pain
  • anxiety or depression
  • Infertility

Although there are no symptoms of the disease, many women with PCOS have other concomitant health problems, such as diabetes , high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These are linked to typical weight gain in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome .

How Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is Diagnosed:  There is no definitive test for polycystic ovary syndrome . To make a diagnosis, your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and perform tests to rule out other possible conditions. Your doctor will perform a physical and pelvic exam to look for signs of polycystic ovary syndrome , such as swollen ovaries or a swollen clitoris.

Blood tests to measure hormone levels are usually ordered, as well as:

  • Thyroid function tests to determine how much thyroid hormone your body makes
  • Fasting glucose tests to measure your blood sugar levels
  • Lipid level tests to assess the amount of cholesterol in your blood

A vaginal ultrasound allows your gynecologist to create real-time images of your reproductive organs. Pelvic laparoscopy is a surgical procedure where your doctor makes a small incision in your abdomen and inserts a tiny camera to check for growths on your ovaries. If there is growth, your doctor may take a small tissue sample (biopsy) for further examination.

How Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is Treated:  Treatment of  polycystic ovary syndrome is not curative. Treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and managing the condition to prevent complications. Treatment will vary from woman to woman, depending on specific symptoms.

A healthy diet and regular exercise is recommended for all women with PCOS , especially those who are overweight. This can help regulate your menstrual cycle and lower your blood glucose levels.

Women who do not want to become pregnant can be prescribed birth control pills. These can help treat acne , regulate the menstrual cycle and lower levels of male hormones, such as testosterone , in the body. If a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome is suffering from infertility, fertility drugs may be administered to help with ovulation.

Anti-androgens are drugs that reduce male hormone levels. These can help stop excessive hair growth and reduce acne . Diabetes medications may also be prescribed to lower blood glucose and testosterone levels .

Surgery may be recommended for some women with polycystic ovary syndrome . Ovarian piercing is a procedure in which your doctor punctures the ovary with a small needle that carries an electrical current in order to destroy part of the ovary. This is a short-term solution that can promote ovulation and reduce male hormone levels.

What are the Possible Complications of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome:  Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing:

If you become pregnant, your doctor may refer you to a doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome have a higher rate of miscarriage, gestational diabetes , and preterm birth. They may need extra monitoring during pregnancy.

The earlier  polycystic ovary syndrome is diagnosed and treated, the lower the risk of developing these complications. Avoiding tobacco products and participating in regular exercise may also reduce the risk of some of these comorbidities. Talk to your doctor about what polycystic ovary syndrome means for your overall health and how you can prevent serious complications.

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