THE BASICS OF POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a female hormonal imbalance commonly observed during a woman’s reproductive years. The ovaries appear enlarged in most cases with the presence of multiple cysts on the exterior. Alternative names of this condition are polycystic ovaries, polycystic ovary disease, Stein-Leventhal syndrome and polyfollicular ovarian disease.

Prevalence

PCOS is estimated to affect 5 – 10 % of premenopausal women.  Almost 5 million women in the US may have PCOS. The symptoms could appear as early as 11 years of age.

Symptoms

PCOS signs may appear in young adolescents, following the start of menstruation. Typical symptoms include:

Diagnosis

A physical examination of the pelvic region may reveal swollen ovaries. PCOS can be visualized by the ultrasound examination of the ovaries. Most cases need to be further confirmed by the presences of additional symptoms, such as menstrual changes and excessive body hair.

Blood tests for hormone levels of estrogen, FSH, LH and androgen may be performed to diagnose PCOS. Other tests for PCOS include fasting glucose, lipid levels, thyroid functions and prolactin levels.

Causes

Although the exact cause of PCOS is unclear, prompt detection and treatment are essential to prevent complications including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, sleep apnea, abnormal uterine bleeding and endometrial cancer.

Hormonal changes in estrogen, progesterone and androgen levels in women are generally found in PCOS. The pathogenesis of PCOS is also related to the following:

Treatment

The prognosis of PCOS patients is generally positive after proper treatment. Women can successfully get pregnant, although the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy is higher than normal.

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