Polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS is a hormonal condition in which a woman’s fertility is adversely affected.
It’s characterised by:
You may have PCOS with or without cysts on your ovaries. Someone with two or three of these features may be infected with PCOS.
The ovaries are described as polycystic when there’s a presence of a large number of underdeveloped harmless follicles (sacs) about 8mm (approximately 0.3in) in size. This is what cuts off ovulation and the timely release of eggs.
PCOS is not easily detected, though it’s common. More than half of the women infected with PCOS have zero symptoms.
PCOS may not be easily diagnosed at first but may be discovered in your early 20s or late teens. Some symptoms are:
There’s also the increased risk of having type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels later in the future.
The underlying cause is unknown. PCOS could run in families. It can also be connected to abnormal hormonal levels, including increased levels of insulin in an attempt by the body to resist it. Obesity contributes to increased insulin production in the body.
PCOS has no cure. Its symptoms can be treated. For obese women, losing weight and healthy eating habits can ameliorate symptoms. There are fertility medications that can treat symptoms like hirsutism, period problems, and infertility.
Surgical treatment like Laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) could help in destroying tissues in the ovaries generating androgens like testosterone. Most women become pregnant with this treatment.
Learn more about treating PCOS.
These become obvious in your late teens or early 20s.
Common symptoms are:
This is one major effect of PCOS. It affects ovulation—hindering natural menstrual cycle thus, presenting irregular or absent periods which in turn provides no egg for fertilisation and consequent conception.
Women infected with PCOS stands the risk of:
The cause of PCOS is not known although, it’s related to abnormal hormone levels
Resistance to Insulin
PCOS makes the body unable to respond to the effect of insulin—a hormone controlling blood sugar level. This causes more insulin to be produced; an increase that triggers too much testosterone production in the ovaries. The body’s resistance to insulin enables obesity which aids in worsening symptoms of PCOS.
The cause of this is not obvious. PCOS-infected women have an imbalance in hormones like testosterone; Luteinising hormone (LH); Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG); and Prolactin. These changes start in the ovaries and may be caused by resistance to insulin.
It’s possible that PCOS can run in families but, no genetic link has yet been discovered.
Since there’s no diagnostic test for PCOS, your GP will talk to you about your medical history and do examinations and tests like:
Diagnosis demands you meet at least 2 of the following 3 criteria:
If positively diagnosed, you may be treated by your doctor or referred to a specialist gynaecologist with recommended follow-ups.
PCOS cannot be cured, but symptoms can be managed with:
Pregnancy risks will be high especially if you’re obese. PCOS can trigger complications like hypertension, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia. You can reduce this risk by losing weight before conceiving.