Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is common in women of reproductive age. Also called polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS is a hormonal disorder that occurs frequently among women who have irregular menstrual cycle or have presence of excess male hormones called androgens. The condition was named as such because of the presence of polycystic ovaries (enlarged ovaries with multiple small cysts) in women who have PCOS. It's important to note however that not all women with PCOS have cysts in their ovaries.
No scientific research can pinpoint the direct cause of PCOS. But several abnormalities have been found in women with this condition. The first is genetic factor or inherited cause of PCOS. It means that women who have mothers or sisters with this condition are more likely to have it.
It has also been identified that women with PCOS have ovaries that produce excessive male hormones that disrupt menstrual cycle and impair fertility. Another factor linked to PCOS is insulin resistance, referring to the inability to use insulin. This problem has been related as a possible cause of this condition.
The most apparent symptom of this hormonal disorder is disruption in the menstrual cycle. At first, the cycle may be normal but then it can become irregular. Menstruation can be delayed. Since the irregularity in the menstrual cycle comes with lack of ovulation, it can be more difficult to get pregnant if you have this condition.
Another common symptom is excess hair growth in certain areas of the body such as on the upper lip, around the nipples, and on the lower part of the abdomen. This is called hirsutism. This happens because of the excess production of male hormones in the ovaries of women with PCOS. Other symptoms include uterine bleeding and breakthrough bleeding due to the reduced levels of the female hormone called progesterone. This is a risk factor for uterine cancer and endometrial hyperplasia.
Lifestyle changes are the main methods of treatment for this condition. Eating a well-balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, maintaining correct weight and quitting bad habits like smoking and drinking alcohol are important in treating PCOS. Doctors also prescribe medications for balancing hormones. Although there is no cure for this disease, it is essential to control it to lower the risks of diabetes, heart disease, uterine cancer, infertility, and miscarriages.
Losing weight even a small amount can do so much in balancing the hormones and regulating menstrual cycle. A proper weight-loss diet and regular exercise should be part of your weight loss fitness program. It's also very important to quit smoking, not only because it increases risk of heart disease but also because it heightens the levels of androgens.
Furthermore, consult your doctor for fertility drug treatment that would improve chances of ovulation and pregnancy if you're trying to get pregnant. Hormone therapy may be used to correct the menstrual cycle. A doctor may also prescribe medications that lower production of androgens.