What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is a condition wherein the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens, basically the male sex hormones. It is termed polycystic because this condition causes several small cysts arranged in a necklace-like fashion, called the “string of pearls.”
During ovulation, a matured egg is released so that it can be fertilised by the male sperm. This egg sits in the Fallopian tube until it is fertilised, and when it doesn’t happen, it gets discharged during periods.
But when you have PCOS, ovulation either happens disorderly or doesn’t happen at all.
This is why Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is responsible for approximately 25-30% of infertility in women. In fact, in Australia, PCOS is present in 12–21% of women of reproductive age, and up to 70% of women with PCOS remain undiagnosed.
What PCOS does to your body?
We all know that PCOS causes an imbalance of hormones, which leads to both physical and mental health issues. Although it can cause commonly seen pelvic pain and period pains just like how endometriosis does, PCOS is way different.
Some of the features and perhaps more severe ones include impaired ovulation, infertility, insulin resistance (impaired ability to metabolise sugar), and excess male hormone (androgen) production
So, imagine you and your friend having exactly the same meal, but because you’ve PCOS for whatever reasons (no one knows what causes PCOS), you may be producing a whole lot more insulin than your friend.
This insulin, in turn, prompts the ovaries to produce more testosterone and cause all those uncomfortable symptoms. Among the many frustrating features of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS, it is actually the cause of many other issues in the body, sometimes even embarrassing ones, for example stubborn fat, and unwanted facial hair.
As a result of these hormonal imbalances, women may
- Find it difficult to conceive due to not ovulating
- Acne due to increased androgen (testosterone)
- Presence of excess hair, especially on the face, chin, chest, back
- Inability to reduce weight even with best efforts
- Heavy periods
How PCOS is diagnosed?
Currently, diagnosis of PCOS is possible when 2 out of 3 criteria are met: clinical symptoms, blood hormone levels and imaging.
Pelvic ultrasound may show “polycystic ovaries,” lumpy and enlarged ovaries with many follicles (immature egg cells) in them. These “cysts” do not cause pain, do not burst and usually do not require surgery.
Your doctor may also check your hormone levels to confirm the diagnosis.
How is PCOS managed?
Management of PCOS depends on the age at presentation and their symptoms. For example,
- Someone in their teens may want to have regular periods or get rid of acne. A hormone pill, especially one containing an antiandrogen may help in that case.
- And someone who is trying to get pregnant may require help with ovulation-inducing agents. Sometimes women may also benefit from procedures like Ovarian Drilling, a laparoscopic procedure where “cysts” are “popped.” This improves ovulation and fertility outcome. IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) is an option when other treatments have failed
- Reducing weight can improve ovulation, and hence fertility. Metformin and other similar medication which reduce insulin resistance may be used to help lose weight and fertility.
PCOS can affect you, so be careful
Although women with PCOS can get pregnant naturally, it is more difficult since ovulation is irregular and unpredictable. Having said that, PCOS is also one of the most common yet treatable causes of infertility.
All you have to do is seek help from doctors.
At Lotus Medics, we will work out a customised treatment plan based on your symptoms, your long term risk of chronic diseases, or plans for having babies.