PCOS is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women, September is PCOS awareness month. This syndrome is known as the “silent killer” because PCOS cannot easily be diagnosed with one test and the symptoms vary from woman to woman.
There are several diseases that women with PCOS are higher risk for such as: endometrial and breast cancer, heart attack, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and sleep apnea. The biggest complication that affects a couple is infertility. The doctor will try and get the woman with PCOS to ovulate regularly with medications. Many women with PCOS undergo In-vitro fertilization where the sperm and egg are fertilized outside of the body and then implanted in the mother.
Signs and Symptoms
Menstrual Irregularities and Reproductive Issues
Many women with PCOS have abnormal vaginal bleeding from amenorrhea (absence of a cycle) to oligomenorrhea (infrequent cycles) to menorrhagia (excessive bleeding) to metrorrhagia (bleeding outside of her cycle).
Elevated androgen levels can cause acne, excess hair growth on the body (hirsutism), and male-pattern hair loss.
Other PCOS signs and symptoms include the following:
- Obesity and weight gain
- Elevated insulin levels and insulin resistance
- Oily skin
- Skin discolorations
- High cholesterol levels
- Elevated blood pressure
- Multiple, small cysts in the ovaries
Women do not have to have all of these symptoms for a PCOS diagnosis but they must have irregular or no menstrual periods. PCOS causes women not to ovulate regularly, which is why they exhibit abnormal bleeding.
What Causes Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
There is no known cause of PCOS. Unfortunately PCOS has been found to be genetic (inherited). More than likely women have a mother or sister with the condition.
PCOS is difficult to diagnose because there is no definitive blood test to make the diagnosis. Your doctor will discuss all of your medical history, symptoms, ultrasound, and perform a pelvic exam as well as blood test to check your hormone levels. They will exclude other disorders in order to diagnose PCOS.
There is no known cure for PCOS. Currently we treat to control the symptoms and prevent the complications that can occur in this disorder. It is important that women keep a healthy diet and regular exercise to help regulate their menstrual cycle and lower blood glucose levels. Birth control pills are often prescribed for women who are not trying to get pregnant to help treat the acne, regulate their menstrual cycle, and decrease androgen production.
How Can We Help?
We as a community need to be aware of this disease and do our best to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. These 2 things can help to prevent PCOS from occurring in our community. As of 2012 1 in 10 women is affected by PCOS. For those women that have a relative with PCOS it is important that you are diagnosed early so that you can begin treatment to prevent any of the complications that can come with the disorder.
It is important that we support the women with this disease especially when you are the husband and she is having trouble conceiving. Emotional support is very important when you have a disorder that heavily deals with hormones. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome causes anxiety and depression in women and it is very important that you are there for your spouse as the doctors try and figure out how to treat her.
Please visit the PCOSfoundation.org for support if you yourself have this illness or you know someone that does. How will you help a woman affected by PCOS? If you have any questions about this disorder please leave them in the comments below, do not hesitate to Ask Dr. Renee.
BMWK: Have you experienced any friend or family member with PCOS?