What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – PCOS?

Being a woman can be difficult, especially when your hormones are “out-of-whack”.  Everything from low to too much estrogen, and all the other hormones in between.  It can be difficult to pinpoint specific hormonal imbalances and needs.  Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – PCOS is a woman’s health issue that is very hard to diagnose and is more common than you think.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance created when the ovaries overproduce androgens. Androgens are male hormones. This excess level of androgens causes an imbalance in the female reproductive system. 

The male hormones prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs, resulting in irregular menstrual cycles. Small cysts can form on the ovaries due to the unpredictable ovulation, but do not occur in all cases, despite the name.  It can be very uncomfortable and be the underlying factor in many other health-related issues.

The exact cause of PCOS is a mystery, but research indicates genetics could play a part. Obesity and insulin resistance can lead to PCOS, and vice versa.

Who is at risk of having PCOS?

All women are at risk when they reach puberty, and up to 15% of women of reproductive age have PCOS. Most women are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s when they are trying to get pregnant and are experiencing infertility issues. 

In addition to the difficulty in getting pregnant, some other symptoms of PCOS are as follows:

  • Irregular menstrual cycle including missing periods, absence of periods, and excessively heavy periods.
  • Abnormally heavy hair growth on the face, arms, stomach, and chest.
  • Patches of hair loss or thinning hair on the head.
  • Skin darkening under the breasts, between the legs, armpits, and neck creases.
  • Obesity and inability to lose weight. 
  • Difficult to treat acne on the face, chest, and back areas.

It is possible to have PCOS and have no symptoms other than infertility issues.

Other Health-Related Issues Caused by PCOS

Having PCOS can lead to developing a number of other adverse health conditions such as:

– Diabetes

– Depression

– Anxiety

– High blood pressure

– Cardiovascular disease

– Endometrial cancer

– Endometrial hyperplasia

– Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders

How is PCOS Diagnosed and How is it Treated?

Part of the diagnostic process to determine if you have PCOS, in addition to the exam, are blood tests to check testosterone and glucose levels. IPE Screening can save you money on these tests. In addition to the blood tests, your physician may also have an ultrasound done. 

Treatment of the PCOS condition is handled differently if pregnancy is the goal. Medication to induce ovulation is prescribed to increase the chances of successful impregnation. If the medications fail to sufficiently improve ovulation, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is recommended. This is where the egg is fertilized outside the body and implanted in the womb. 

If pregnancy is not desired, birth control is prescribed as well as an insulin-sensitizing medicine. Many patients see an improvement in their menstrual cycles when their insulin levels get under control. Eating a healthy diet and losing weight can help to improve insulin levels.

There is no cure for PCOS, but the symptoms can be monitored and treated to mitigate the impact. Regular exercise and eating right can help tremendously. 

IPE Screening can help you to monitor your glucose levels and also hormone levels to keep the condition in check and know when you need to consult your physician to discuss changes. 

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