Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Introduction

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. It is characterised by a combination of symptoms that can impact menstrual cycle, fertility, appearance, and long-term health.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels, leading to the production of higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones. This hormonal imbalance causes skipped menstrual periods and makes it harder for women to get pregnant. PCOS also causes hair growth on the face and body, and baldness, and can contribute to long-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

Symptoms of PCOS

  • Irregular Menstrual Cycles: Fewer than normal periods due to lack of ovulation.
  • Excess Androgen: High levels of male hormones may result in physical signs such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), severe acne, and male-pattern baldness.
  • Polycystic Ovaries: Enlarged ovaries containing numerous small fluid-filled sacs which can hinder normal follicular development and ovulation.
  • Weight Gain: Often with a greater risk of obesity despite exercise and normal eating habits.

Causes of PCOS

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but several factors are thought to influence its development:

  • Genetics: PCOS seems to run in families, so there may be a genetic link.
  • Insulin Resistance: A significant number of women with PCOS also have insulin resistance, contributing to increased blood sugar levels and higher production of androgens.
  • Inflammation: Women with PCOS often have increased levels of inflammation in their body which might contribute to insulin resistance.

Diagnosing PCOS

There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. Diagnosis is typically made based on the presence of at least two of the following criteria:

  • Irregular Periods: Especially prolonged cycles or infrequent menstrual periods.
  • Signs of High Androgen Levels: Either through blood tests or physical symptoms like excess facial and body hair.
  • Polycystic Ovaries: Visible on an ultrasound.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can PCOS go away on its own?

While PCOS is a lifelong condition, symptoms can be managed effectively with medical treatment and lifestyle modifications. Many women with PCOS can lead a normal life without significant complications.

Is PCOS curable?

There is no cure for PCOS, but the symptoms can be managed. Treatment options can regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, reduce hair growth, and increase the chance of pregnancy.

What lifestyle changes can help manage PCOS symptoms?

Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help manage symptoms. Reducing intake of processed foods and sugars is also beneficial.

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