Happy male doctor speaking to woman patient about her health conPolycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common for women in their childbearing years. Women with the condition often suffer from irregular ovulation cycles, which results in difficulties getting pregnant.

PCOS is named after the small cysts that form along the outer edge of each ovary for many women with the condition. These cysts are typical for the disorder but may not be present for all women with PCOS.

Although many women may be suffering from PCOS, not all women recognize the signs or know the treatment options. To that end, here are four facts you need to know about PCOS:

Fact #1: There is no known cause for PCOS.

Women with PCOS often wonder what caused the condition. At this time, there is no known cause. Experts agree, however, that there are several factors that combine to create a hormonal imbalance that affects up to one in 10 women in the United States. One of the biggest factors is genetics. Therefore, if you have a mother or a sister with PCOS, you are more likely to have it as well.

Fact #2: There is no set symptom pattern for women with PCOS.

The main imbalance of the hormonal system for women with PCOS is an excess of androgen, a male hormone that women’s endocrine systems also produce in smaller amounts as part of their regular hormonal cycle. Too much androgen can result in the following symptoms, although not necessarily for every woman:

  • Excessive or abnormal hair growth (hirsutism), including facial hair
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Acne breakouts on face, chin, chest or back
  • Irregular ovulation or no ovulation of a mature egg

Additional symptoms can include the following: ovarian cysts, thinning hair or male-pattern baldness, skin tags, feelings of depression and/or anxiety, sleep apnea, pain in the pelvic area, insulin resistance and infertility.

Fact #3: Early detection can help prevent serious long-term complications.

Women are advised to see their doctors if they are experiencing any of the symptoms above. PCOS is a condition that responds well to treatment, and early detection benefits women in that it prevents more serious conditions that can develop if left untreated. For example, if PCOS results in the development of insulin resistance, early treatment can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Other serious long-term complications for untreated PCOS can be high blood pressure and heart disease.

Fact #4: Two of the most effective treatments are lifestyle and dietary changes.

Your doctor may prescribe treatment to regulate your menstrual cycles and alleviate some of the more problematic symptoms. Two treatments that are beneficial, however, are simple to implement to offset the effects of the condition: diet and exercise.

Getting to a healthy weight is a great way to help treat PCOS. Also, since reducing blood sugar levels helps alleviate common symptoms of PCOS, women who change their diet to include lower fat and carbohydrate content often can keep reduce the effects of the symptoms. In addition, adding more activity into your routine helps lower blood sugar levels.

PCOS is a common disorder for women that can result in problems getting pregnant due to irregular ovulation. Women who think they might have the condition should see their doctors so they can begin to reduce the effects of PCOS on their body and health. With proper treatment and care, their PCOS doesn’t have to be an obstacle to starting the families they always wanted to have.

Sources:

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Fact Sheet.” www.womenshealth.gov. Web. 6 August 2014. <http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html>

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).” www.mayoclinic.org. Web. 6 August 2014.
<http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/basics/definition/con-20028841>