Sunday, November 27, 2011

Problems with PCOS

"Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which there is an imbalance of a woman's female sex hormones." This hormone imbalance may cause changes in the menstrual cycle, cysts in the ovaries, and the female may have trouble getting pregnant. "Female sex hormones include estrogen and progesterone, as well as hormones called androgens." Androgens are also called "male hormones," and are indeed present in women, but only in different amounts. Female hormones help regulate the development of eggs in the ovaries, and polycystic ovary syndrome is related to an imbalance in these sex hormones. With PCOS, too much of the androgen hormone is made and there can be other changes as well.

The cause of PCOS is unknown, but some think that many factors come into play. One major factor is genetics, and women with PCOS are more likely to have a female relative with the condition. Between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women in their 20's and 30's have PCOS, and about 5 million women in the United States are affected today. Women are usually diagnosed when they are in their 20s or 30s, but polycystic ovary syndrome may also affect young girls, some being as young as 11. As soon as a girl's menstrual cycle starts, symptoms of PCOS can occur.

The symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman. Some symptoms of this condition include:

-Infertility due of lack of ovulation. (PCOS is also the most common cause of infertility.)
-Irregular menstrual periods (periods may also be absent)
-Hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, and/or toes
-Cysts on the ovaries
-Acne and oily skin
-Weight gain or obesity
-Thinning hair
-Dark, thick patches of skin.
-Skin tags
-Pelvic and abdominal pain
-Anxiety or depression
-Sleep apnea

There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. However, the doctor can take a few different steps to see if PCOS is causing the symptoms listed above or if it is something else. Some include the individuals medical history of menstrual periods, weight changes, and other symptoms, as well as a physical exam to check blood pressure, BMI, and unusual areas of hairgrowth. The more common tests include a pelvic exam, blood tests, and a vaginal ultrasound (pictured on right) to check for enlarged ovaries due to cysts.

There is no cure for PCOS, so it needs to be managed to prevent problems. Treatments are based on the individuals symptoms, whether or not they wish to become pregnant, and also to lower their chances of getting heart disease and diabetes. Many women need to do one or more treatments to manage this condition. Some treatments include:

-Eating healthy (limit processed foods with added sugars) this will help lower blood glucose levels, regulate hormones, and may cause weight loss which will help regulate the menstrual cycle.

-Take birth control pills. This can help control menstrual cycles, reduce male hormone levels, and can also help clear up acne.

-Take fertility medications. This helps with the lack of ovulation that can occur with PCOS.

-Surgery or "ovarian drilling." This can help with ovulation and can reduce male hormone levels.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is common disorder that affects many women today. Women with PCOS also have an increased chance of developing other medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, high levels of LDL, and anxiety or depression. It is important for women with PCOS to do the treatments listed above to prevent these problems from occurring in the future.


1. Polycystic ovary syndrome (pcos) fact sheet. (2010, March 17). Retrieved from

2. Polycystic ovary syndrome. (2011). Retrieved from

Updated 11/28/11


  1. I have heard of this before but I did no know that it was this common. It is a shame that it cannot be treated and there is no actual test to see if you have it or not right a way

  2. I agree, it is a shame that it is so common and doesn't have one specific treatment. My gynecologist told me first hand that about 1 in every 5 women that come in her office have PCOS so it is much more common than I thought.