Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a health problem that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance and metabolism problems that may affect their overall health and appearance. PCOS is also a common and treatable cause of infertility. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a common health problem caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones. The hormonal imbalance creates problems in the ovaries. The ovaries make the egg that is released each month as part of a healthy menstrual cycle. With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, the egg may not develop as it should or it may not be released during ovulation as it should be.
This can cause missed or irregular menstrual periods. Irregular periods can lead to:
- Infertility (inability to get pregnant). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is one of the most common causes of infertility in women.
- Development of cysts (small fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries
Some of the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome include:
- Irregular menstrual cycle. Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome may miss periods or have fewer periods (fewer than eight in a year). Or,their periods may come every 21 days or more often. Some women stop having menstrual periods.
- Too much hair on the face, Chin, or parts of the body where men usually have hair. This is called “hirsutism.” And this affects up to 70% of women with PCOS.
- Acne on the face, chest, and upper back
- Thinning hair or hair loss on the scalp; male-pattern baldness
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Darkening of skin, particularly along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts
- Skin tags, which are small excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
- High levels of Androgens: Androgens are sometimes called “male hormones,” although all women make small amounts of androgens. Androgens control the development of male traits, such as male-pattern baldness. Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, have more androgens than normal. Higher than normal androgen levels in women can prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation) during each menstrual cycle, and can cause extra hair growth and acne, two signs of PCOS.
- High levels of insulin: Insulin is a hormone that controls how the food you eat is changed into energy. Insulin resistance is when the body’s cells do not respond normally to insulin. As a result, your insulin blood levels become higher than normal. Many women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome have insulin resistance; especially those who are overweight or obese, have unhealthy eating habits, do not get enough physical activity, and have a family history of diabetes (usually type 2 diabetes). Over time, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Complications of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can include:
- Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Miscarriage or premature birth
- Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis — a severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
- Metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Depression, anxiety and eating disorders
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer)
Obesity is associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and can worsen complications of the disorder
There is no cure for PCOS, but you can manage the symptoms of PCOS. You and your doctor will work on a treatment plan based on your symptoms, your plans for having children, and your risk of long-term health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Many women will need a combination of treatments,including:
- Losing weight. Healthy eating habits and regular physical activity can help relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome-related symptoms. Losing weight may help to lower your blood glucose levels, improve the way your body uses insulin, and help your hormones reach normal levels. Even a 10% loss in body weight can help make your menstrual cycle more regular and improve your chances of getting pregnant.
- Removing hair. You can try facial hair removal creams, laser hair removal, or electrolysis to remove excess hair. Procedures like laser hair removal or electrolysis must be done by a doctor.
- Slowing hair growth. A prescription skin treatment (eflornithine HCl cream) can help slow down the growth rate of new hair in unwanted places
NB: Discuss with your doctor to know what options are available for you.