Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder characterized by excess female hormones called “oestrogen” and “progesterone”. The most common symptom of PCOS is excessive menstrual cycle irregularity, which may lead to infertility. There are many other symptoms associated with PCOS including weight gain, acne, irregular periods, hair loss or thinning hair, insulin resistance and heart disease.
The cause of PCOS is unknown but it’s believed that there could be genetic factors involved. A number of environmental factors have been linked to the development of PCOS such as obesity, stress, lack of exercise and smoking. Other possible causes include infections like strep throat or genital herpes, medications like birth control pills and alcohol consumption.
What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition where the ovaries produce too much of certain types of male hormones, called “oestrogens.” These oestrogens stimulate the growth of cysts (small sacs filled with fluid). Cysts can grow anywhere from one inch to several inches in size. If they become large enough, they can block up your menstrual flow completely. This results in irregular periods and/or infertility.
Although the condition is most commonly found in women of reproductive age, it can also affect girls who have yet to experience their first period (known as “adolescent PCOS”), and women in their fifties and sixties.
There are many other symptoms associated with PCOS, including: weight gain, acne, excessive body or facial hair (known as “hirsutism”), thinning scalp hair or hair loss (also known as “alopecia” or “baldness”), depression or bipolar disorder, and diabetes.
While there is no cure for PCOS, a number of treatments exist which can improve the symptoms. These include lifestyle changes and medications.
The following sections will provide more information on the above topics.
Symptoms of PCOS
As mentioned above, there are many symptoms of this condition. These include the following:
Excessive menstrual cycle irregularity, which may lead to infertility.
Weight gain or obesity.
Excessive body or facial hair (known as “hirsutism”).
Thinning scalp hair or hair loss (also known as “alopecia” or “baldness”).
Depression or bipolar disorder.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
If you have been experiencing at least two of the above symptoms, and if these symptoms are disrupting your day-to-day life, then you should see your doctor immediately. A physical examination will be conducted, blood tests performed, and – in some cases – an ultrasound of your ovaries may be recommended. Further tests might also be required, depending on the results of the initial screening. A good doctor will partner with you in getting to the root of the problem, and will also provide you with a list of resources and support networks that are available to help you manage your condition.
NOTE: It is very important to remember that NOT all women who have PCOS experience the same symptoms. Additionally, some women may only experience a few symptoms and still be diagnosed. A diagnosis of PCOS is made by a process of elimination, so a thorough medical history and physical examination are required.
It is also important to have regular check-ups with your doctor even if you don’t experience any of the symptoms mentioned above. These check-ups help to ensure that your condition is being managed properly and that any complications that may arise can be dealt with swiftly and effectively.
What Causes PCOS?
While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, there are a number of factors which are thought to contribute to its development, including:
Lack of ovulation.
Insulin Resistance: Insulin is a hormone which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Some experts believe that insulin resistance may contribute to the development of PCOS.
Lack of Ovulation: This is a condition where a woman’s ovaries do not release an egg on a monthly basis. Instead, the ovaries produce multiple cysts, and a hormonal imbalance occurs.
Excess androgens: Androgens include testosterone and other “male hormones”. Excess androgens are thought to contribute to many of the symptoms of PCOS (including hirsutism and alopecia).
Genetics: While the exact link is unknown, some researchers believe that genetics may be a factor in the development of PCOS as it can run in families.
What are the Different Types of PCOS?
As mentioned above, there are three different types of PCOS depending on which symptoms are experienced by the patient. These are:
PCOS with acne and/or irregular periods (also known as “classical” PCOS).
PCOS with excess hair growth in a male distribution pattern (also known as “acquired” or “ovarian” PCOS).
PCOS with obesity and/or insulin resistance.
As the name suggests, this type of PCOS is characterized by symptoms related to irregular periods and acne. Some women may also experience hirsutism (excess hair growth in a male distribution pattern) and alopecia (loss of head hair).
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