PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a common medical problem among women of childbearing age. It is also an easy disease to overlook despite the fact that roughly one woman in ten will suffer from it. Learn more about PCOS and the signs and symptoms associated with it to ensure you’re not being affected by it.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal problem that can occur in women after puberty. Women who suffer from PCOS have unusually high androgen levels in their systems. Androgens are masculine hormones which can lead to a variety of symptoms for women when they are present in unhealthy levels.
The precise cause of the disease is unknown, but researchers have found some factors that appear to be linked to it. It is likely that there is a genetic component but there is also evidence for environmental factors. It is extremely common regardless of the precise cause, so many women will need to deal with it at some point in their lives.
Signs and Symptoms
Sex hormones play an important role in the human body, so we can see a fairly wide variety of symptoms among people who suffer from PCOS. Most of these symptoms will get worse for patients who are also obese, but anyone with the disease can suffer from them.
Menstrual symptoms are common. Many women who suffer from PCOS will have irregular periods. Their timing can change or they can even stop entirely. On the other hand, some patients suffer from unusually heavy periods instead. The precise changes vary, but irregularity is common.
We also see patients that develop masculine traits. The development of extra facial or body hair is common. Some people also develop male-pattern baldness or heavy acne as a result of the hormonal changes.
The ovaries can also develop the cysts that give the disease its name. They can get in the way of normal ovarian function and even cause infertility in some cases.
How PCOS Impacts Health
Those symptoms can have a major impact on an individual’s general health and quality of life. The reproductive issues are often the most significant. Failure to conceive can be highly stressful for people who want to have children and can put a strain on some relationships.
PCOS can also lead to a variety of medical complications in the long term. It can lead to depression or other psychological disorders, sleep apnea, or even diabetes. It has also been linked to obesity, a problem which can lead to many other medical issues over time.
The good news is that we do have ways to manage PCOS. Most of the treatment options focus on dealing with specific problems that arise from the disease, such as infertility.
Medications are available that can help to deal with the hormonal imbalance. Birth control pills are a common option, but there are other therapies available that can help to deal with the development of unwanted hair or irregular periods for some patients. Lifestyle changes can also help. Diet and exercise are especially useful for controlling weight gain.
The exact treatment plan will vary depending on each patient’s symptoms and their goals. We advise anyone who thinks they might be suffering from PCOS to talk to a medical professional to get a proper diagnosis and discuss a treatment plan that will meet their needs.