What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects women’s fertility and is often diagnosed during adolescence. It is characterized by an overproduction of hormones by the ovaries, leading to hyperandrogenism, failed ovulation, cyst formation, and infertility. People with PCOS also tend to have insulin resistance, causing the pancreas to overproduce insulin and exacerbate androgen production by the ovaries. Symptoms of elevated androgens can include facial hair growth, acne, obesity, irregular menstrual cycles, and infertility due to lack of ovulation. Individuals with PCOS may only present with some or none of these symptoms, but the presence of irregular periods and evidence of hyperandrogenism can suggest a diagnosis of PCOS. It is important to note that despite its name, not all individuals with PCOS will have cysts on their ovaries.
Is PCOS an Endocrine Disorder?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It involves an imbalance of hormones, particularly increased levels of androgens (male hormones) in relation to estrogen and progesterone. This hormonal imbalance leads to various symptoms such as increased facial hair growth, insulin resistance, acanthosis nigricans (dark velvet-colored patches of skin usually located around folds of the skin such as the axilla and neck) and cysts located on the ovaries typically detected by ultrasound. It can affect multiple systems in the body, including the ovaries, adrenal glands, and hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. The endocrine system, which regulates hormone production and function, is intricately involved in the development and manifestation of PCOS. Therefore, PCOS is classified as an endocrinology disease and is typically managed by endocrinologists or healthcare professionals specializing in hormonal disorders.
What Are The Causes of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it is thought to be linked to genetic predispositions toward insulin resistance, which can cause the body to produce higher levels of insulin. This can result in the overproduction of androgens, which are male hormones that women also produce in smaller amounts. High levels of androgens can disrupt the normal menstrual cycle and lead to the development of small cysts on the ovaries. Additionally, PCOS has a genetic component and may run in families. Lifestyle factors such as a high-fat diet and lack of physical activity may also contribute to the development of PCOS.
How Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Diagnosed?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that is diagnosed through a process of exclusion, where other potential causes of similar symptoms must be ruled out. This includes disorders that can cause abnormal periods or symptoms of hyperandrogenism, such as thyroid disease, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, elevated prolactin levels, and androgen-secreting tumors. A diagnosis of PCOS begins with a comprehensive evaluation, including a patient history, physical examination, and laboratory tests to measure prolactin levels, thyroid hormones, and androgens, among other tests. Only after these conditions have been ruled out can a definitive diagnosis of PCOS be confidently made.
How Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Treated?
The approach to treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) involves managing symptoms and tracking its progression. The focus is on adopting the “Four Pillars” of a healthy lifestyle including but not limited to a balanced diet that limits carbohydrate intake, a combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress which includes getting enough quality sleep.
Medications may also be prescribed when necessary.
What Are The Risks Of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome If Left Untreated?
It’s important to note that PCOS has long-lasting effects, including an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and possibly cardiovascular disease and endometrial cancer. Women with PCOS may also experience psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, due to the impact of the condition on their physical and emotional well-being. Therefore, any female presenting with symptoms such as hirsutism, treatment-resistant acne, menstrual irregularity, or obesity should be thoroughly evaluated for PCOS and take the condition seriously.