Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that may occur in women during their childbearing years. It disrupts the secretion of the female hormones such as progesterone and estrogen which regulate the menstrual cycle, and causes increased secretion of androgens, which are male hormones that are normally secreted by the ovaries in very small quantities.
The 3 main features of PCOS are:
- Irregular menses
- The development of cysts in the ovaries
- Increased levels of male hormones
The exact cause of PCOS is unclear, but it may be that genetic abnormalities, inflammatory processes, or insulin resistance may result in high levels of male hormones which inhibit the process of ovulation.
According to a research study, about 70% of women with PCOS aren’t even aware they have the condition. Here are some important symptoms of PCOS that should not be ignored:
- Irregular periods: Because of the lack of ovulation, the shedding of the uterine lining does not occur regularly. Some women with PCOS have been noted to have only 8 cycles per year.
- Heavy menses: When the menstrual bleeding does occur, it can be quite heavy as the uterine lining has been built up over a longer period than normal.
- Excessive hair growth: Greater than 70% of women with PCOS have a condition known as hirsutism, which is characterized by excessive hair growth on the face, back, belly, and chest.
- Male pattern baldness: In contrast to the excessive hair growth on the body and face, there may be thinning and loss of scalp hair similar to men.
- Dark skin patches: Darkening of skin may occur in skin creases of the neck, under the breasts, and in the groin area.
If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms and in addition have been diagnosed with cysts in your ovaries or your blood tests have demonstrated high androgen levels, you may have PCOS.
PCOS can be successfully managed with lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and losing weight as well as keeping blood pressure and blood sugar levels under control. Medications such as birth control pills may also help regulate your menstrual cycle and control PCOS symptoms.
Contact your doctor or visit the specialists at North Central Surgical Center for treatments specific to your condition.