Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – Overview of Symptoms and Causes

In the United States alone, there are as many as five million women impacted by polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS.  This number means that approximately 1 in 15 women of childbearing age have PCOS.PCOS Treatment

PCOS is a health issue that shifts a woman’s hormone levels out of balance, and increases their risk for several medical problems. Most women with  PCOS will have problems with their menstrual periods and difficulty getting pregnant. Women with PCOS make higher levels of androgens (male hormones) than woman without PCOS which accounts for most of the hormone imbalances that occur.

The Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

The symptoms of PCOS may appear to be mild at first, gradually worsening over time. Symptoms usually start at the time of puberty.  Some of the most common signs of polycystic ovary syndrome include the following:

  • Weight gain and difficulty losing weight despite proper nutrition and exercise. Most woman with PCOS are overweight.
  • Acne and chronic acne break-outs
  • Thinning of the hair along the scalp, in severe cases
  • The development of excessive hair growth, on the face, chest, belly and back
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Issues with fertility, difficulty getting pregnant
  • Irregular menstrual periods that are erratic at times.  Some women do not get a period or go months without one.

The Causes of PCOS

While the symptoms of PCOS are generally caused by the hormonal changes in the body, the cause of PCOS is a little different. PCOS is caused by a defects related to the hormone insulin, hence the association of PCOS with diabetes.  The condition tends to be seen among family members, and is considered to be genetic.  This means that if other women in your family have had PCOS then your likelihood of developing the condition is higher.  The condition can be passed down from either the mother’s or father’s side.

Fertilty Center ColoradoResearch has shown that women who have diabetes or irregular periods among the females in the family, have a higher chance to develop PCOS.  In order to diagnose the condition, clinical history is the most important factor but several blood tests must be done, to assess androgen levels, cholesterol levels, tests for diabetes, as PCOS patients are predisposed to diabetes and cholesterol problems.  In order to meet the criteria for PCOS most physicians will use the criteria of  irregular cycles before age 20 (when not on hormonal birth control), signs of androgen excess (acne, hirsutism, elevated blood testosterone levels) and PCOS appearing ovaries by transvaginal ultrasound.

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