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What is polycystic ovarian syndrome?

Posted by CarePoint Health on May 18, 2015 1:00:00 PM

what is pcosThere are many hormones circulating within your body at any given time, each playing a role in your day-to-day functions. For optimal health, a woman’s body needs a certain balance of female and male hormones.

If your body starts producing too much of a particular hormone, certain side effects will occur. In the case of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), your body actually has an imbalance of male hormones, or androgens, which can produce a variety of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Experts aren’t sure what causes PCOS, but some genetic and environmental factors are possible culprits. They do know, however, that PCOS typically results from the ovaries producing too many androgens (male hormones) and not enough estrogen (a female hormone). In some cases, it may also result from too much insulin, another hormone that regulates blood sugar (glucose).

The most common symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Irregular, very heavy, and/or long menstrual periods – or having no periods at all. This can mean that your body is not ovulating regularly.
  • Signs of too many androgens in your body. This includes excess facial or body hair, very oily skin or acne, and excess weight, particularly around the waist.
  • Numerous cysts on your ovaries, which produce the excess androgens. These can be seen on an ultrasound.

Diagnosis and treatment of PCOS

Your gynecologist may diagnose you with PCOS based on your symptoms and a physical exam. You may also have an ultrasound done to check your ovaries for cysts.

PCOS symptoms can be treated in a variety of ways. Certain medications can alleviate the symptoms of PCOS, such as the birth control pill and other hormonal contraceptives. Anti-androgen drugs and medications for high insulin may also be recommended. If you are trying to get pregnant, your gynecologist can work with you to help you treat infertility caused by PCOS. Certain fertility medications have been shown to help women with PCOS get pregnant.

Be sure to speak with your gynecologist if you are experiencing any of these issues so the cause can be determined. Untreated PCOS can put you at risk for health problems such as insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and sleep apnea.

CarePoint Health Gynecology Care

The expert gynecologists at CarePoint Health can guide you through treatment of PCOS and many other women’s health issues. For more information about the comprehensive women’s services we provide, please contact us.

Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.


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