A disorder affecting females of reproductive age, PCOS is an abnormality in the metabolism and regulation of hormone output, specifically androgens and estrogens, which regulate the menstrual cycle and ovulation of a person. These sex hormones are developed by both men and women. Women, though are producing more estrogen while men are making more androgen. The concern with PCOS is that the root problem upsets the natural equilibrium of these hormones in the body of a woman.
The origin of PCOS remains uncertain, although there are several potential explanations for this. It may be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. It can also be attributed to the irregular functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovary (HPO) axis, which in turn affects androgens and estrogens. Improper metabolism or over-production of testosterone (androgen) can also prohibit ovaries from releasing eggs, which then become cysts. Excess insulin and chronic inflammation are both being investigated as possible causes.
About 5 to 10 percent of women between 20 and 40 years of age have PCOS.
Patients, particularly before the age of 16, can have no signs or symptoms. Symptoms can occur in slim women with a genetic predisposition to PCOS following weight gain.
Common signs include:
Irregular and often serious menstruation
Too much androgen or male hormone manifested as:
Hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the upper lip, jaw, lower belly, and around the nipples)
Alopecia (thinning of hair) or male-pattern baldness
Acanthosis (dark, thickened skin around the neck, armpits, or breasts)
Acne, clogged pores
Many tiny cysts in the ovary (based on ultrasound)
PCOS is most often caused by other disorders such as dyslipidemia (abnormal blood fat levels), diabetes (type 2) and obstructive sleep apnea. Patients may have an elevated risk of coronary and cerebrovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), endometrial hyperplasia, and carcinoma.
When you or someone you know has these signs, the safest course of action is to see a gynecologist. The sooner the PCOS is being handled, the better.
The doctor can request a transvaginal ultrasound to see both ovaries. This will prove the existence of cysts and will also rule out endometrial (uterine) complications.
Blood testing can also be conducted to rule out any associated conditions and to measure androgen, insulin and other hormone levels. Blood sugar and lipid panel monitoring can also be conducted to screen for diabetes or dyslipidemia, which may be a side effect of PCOS.
Unfortunately, PCOS may contribute to infertility. Early diagnosis and care are therefore significant particularly if you plan to have a child someday. Many woman with the disorder may have healthy babies when PCOS is appropriately treated.
There is no treatment for PCOS, but effects can be monitored and health risks greatly minimized. Lifestyle improvement, particularly diet and exercise, is the best first-line therapy for women with PCOS. Losing weight is of primary importance, particularly when patients with PCOS are typically obese or overweight.
Medicines are prescribed to treat the symptoms of patients, avoid potentially serious diseases and improve the likelihood of birth.
They include oral contraceptives, metformin, prednisone, leuprolide, clomiphene, and spironolactone. Certain dermatological treatments can also be prescribed to remove excess hair, avoid hair thinning, or prevent serious acne. With proper counseling, lifestyle modification, a careful intake of medication, women with are known to have good prognosis.