Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that results from abnormal hormone levels. Women with PCOS tend to have irregular menstrual cycles or no periods at all. PCOS can cause health problems, but can also be treated with medications.
A woman who has PCOS is born with the condition. However, it is common for symptoms not to show until later in life. PCOS is a genetic disorder; commonly, when a woman is diagnosed with PCOS, she has other female relatives with the disorder also.
PCOS causes hormone levels to be out of balance in a woman’s system. The most commonly affected hormones are luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), progesterone, testosterone, insulin and other reproductive hormones. Due to the hormone changes that occur as a result of PCOS, women with PCOS are at higher risk for infertility, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
The Center for Women's Health has a new method of diagnosing and treating PCOS, called the fertiloscope. This minimally invasive procedure has the ability to diagnose and treat a variety of pelvic conditions.
PCOS symptoms can begin as early as the first menstrual cycle in some women. It is not uncommon for symptoms to occur and progress over time. Signs and symptoms of PCOS may include:
- Excess hair on the face and body (known as hirsutism)
- Darkened color and change in texture of the skin along the neck, armpits, groin, and inner thighs
- Irregular or no menstrual cycles
- Infertility/trouble getting pregnant
- Vaginal yeast infections
- Hair loss
To diagnose PCOS, your provider will ask you questions about your health, your menstrual cycle and your family history. She will also do a complete physical exam that may include blood tests to check hormone levels. A pelvic ultrasound may be done to look at the ovaries and check the lining of the uterus.
PCOS is a lifelong condition, but it can be managed in a number of ways. Treatment depends on your symptoms and whether you are trying to get pregnant. Long-term treatment may be needed if other medical problems arise. Changes in lifestyle can be a great help in controlling hormone levels. Incorporating exercise and a healthy diet into your life will assist in controlling weight and blood pressure and help to prevent heart disease and diabetes.