If you are a woman in the childbearing years, you may have heard of PCOS. PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and it is one of the most common endocrine disorders among women who are in their reproductive years. Although the symptoms may vary, the hallmarks of PCOS are an imbalance in reproductive hormones, irregular periods, and difficulties with fertility. It can have an onset during your first period, or later in life. Although it can cause issues with fertility, it is possible for people who have PCOS to become pregnant. Although the word cyst is in the name, PCOS may occur with ovarian cysts or without.
Symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, increased androgen (a male hormone), and polycystic ovaries. According to the MayoClinic, polycystic ovaries are when the eggs in the ovaries are surrounded by follicles, and the ovaries are enlarged. These symptoms can interfere with the normal functioning of the female reproductive system.
Another effect of PCOS is trouble with fertility, as the follicles in the ovary may interfere with the eggs being released each month. This can also lead to irregularities with menstrual periods. The imbalance of hormones or over-production of androgens also plays a role in this.
Other symptoms can include facial hair, acne, and the development of high blood pressure or diabetes. PCOS can also be a factor in the development of gestational diabetes in pregnant women who have it.
According to WebMD, some other symptoms of PCOS include:
The MayoClinic lists additional complications of this condition as including:
-Abnormal uterine bleeding
-Type 2 diabetes
Causes of PCOS
The causes of PCOS are unknown, but there are some things that might have a hand in the development of this condition. Inflammation is implicated as studies have shown that women with PCOS have a type of inflammation that can affect the body to produce more androgens; the male hormones that play a role in PCOS.
Insulin may also play a role in PCOS. Insulin is the hormone that controls how you metabolize sugar. An imbalance of insulin can cause the body to produce androgens.
There may be certain genes that are linked to PCOS as well. This means that there may be an element of heredity. Additionally, if the body is simply producing too much androgen, this may have something to do with the development of PCOS as well.
According to the MayoClinic, PCOS first starts affecting women during puberty. However, there are other cases where it is developed later in life. They state that there are cases where PCOS develops after a large amount of weight gain.
Getting a diagnosis
If you or your doctor are suspecting that you have PCOS, then they start a discussion about your medical history.The doctor will check for hormonal imbalances and blood levels, and may also conduct a pelvic exam. Additionally, they might want to take a look at your uterus via ultrasound.
Treatment for PCOS often includes medications and lifestyle changes. It is believed that in many cases, weight loss can lead to a significant improvement in symptoms.
Medications can be given to help regulate periods, or to help with fertility if someone suffering from PCOS is trying to get pregnant. Other treatments may be given to control the other symptoms of PCOS, for instance, facial hair or acne.
PCOS is a common endocrine disorder that affects many women, however, it can be manageable with a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments.
If you suspect you may have PCOS, start documenting your symptoms to prepare for a conversation with your doctor. The doctor may do some testing to establish whether this is the case, and the next steps in treatment can be determined afterward.
Ultimately seeing a doctor is the first step in treatment, as you can figure out what to do about your condition and how to proceed. After a diagnosis of PCOS, regular visits to manage your symptoms and keep track of your condition is helpful. You may also be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle to help further manage your symptoms.
Although there may be issues with fertility, a diagnosis of PCOS does not mean you will not be able to get pregnant. Many women are able to have a healthy pregnancy and births despite this condition. Like many other disorders, treatment can help persons affected to live totally normal, healthy lives.
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