Polycystic ovary syndrome
Overview of polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is common gynecological problem among women, which affects the normal functioning of the ovaries. In polycystic ovary syndrome a number of cysts develop around the edge of the ovaries that result in the failure to release eggs from the ovaries (ovulation). It is also often characterized by a higher level of male hormones than normal or male hormones that are more active than normal.
Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome
The symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome are clearly visible at times and the problem is increasingly associated with younger women nowadays due to lifestyle issues. Almost all women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome complain of irregular menstrual cycle. Examples of menstrual abnormality include menstrual intervals longer than 35 days, fewer than eight menstrual cycles a year; failure to menstruate for four months or longer and prolonged periods that may be scant or heavy. polycystic ovary syndrome also shows excess level of androgen or the male hormones in the body.
Other symptoms include:
- Excessive body hair (hirsutism)
- Irregular or light periods
- Problems getting pregnant (infertility)
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
Causes of polycystic ovary syndrome
The exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is unknown but researchers believe that several factors, including genetics, could play a role. polycystic ovary syndrome can also be hereditary in nature and chances of acquiring the disease goes up if your mother or sister is suffering from the problem.
The main problem of polycystic ovary syndrome is the hormonal imbalance where excess androgen is produced. Researchers also think insulin may be linked as many women with polycystic ovary syndrome have too much insulin in their bodies.
Diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome
The diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome starts with the doctor trying to ascertain the medical history of the patient. A doctor would want to know about the menstrual periods, weight changes, and other symptoms. Blood pressure, checking for excess hair growth and body mass index are some of the key parameters which are checked.
A doctor can also call for blood tests to check if there are elevated serum (blood) levels of androgens, including androstenedione and testosterone and glucose (sugar) levels. A doctor might want to check to see if your ovaries are enlarged or swollen by the increased number of small cysts through a pelvic examination.
Vaginal ultrasound or a sonogram is an imaging test which allows a doctor to precisely determine the presence of the disease. The test allows sound waves to form a picture of the pelvic area. The test is also good to check of there are any cyst around the endometrium.
Treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome
Treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome is varied and diverse and is often linked to the symptoms. Generally birth control pills are used for women who do not want to get pregnant as they prove effective in control menstrual cycles, reducing male hormone levels and also help clear acne.
However, to make the menstrual cycle regular one would have to continue taking birth control pill and hence many women are advised to take a medicine which has only progesterone, like Provera. In some cases where polycystic ovary syndrome is due to excess amount of sugar in the blood, medications to control diabetes maybe necessary.
According to Office on Women's Health diabetes medications also becomes necessary in some cases. The medicine metformin (Glucophage) is used to treat type 2 diabetes. Although not approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), metformin has been proven effective in such cases. Other medications include medicines that help stimulate ovulation. This also helps treat infertility and drugs like clomiphene, metformin taken with clomiphene and gonadotropins are also helpful. Methods like in vitro fertilization (IVF) can also be used to treat infertility but are more expensive.
In some cases surgery will be required when medicines do not work. There are, however, risk of complications like developing scar tissues on the ovary and is only used when absolutely necessary. Doctors may also prescribe medicines to tackle increased hair growth and extra male hormones.
Prevention of polycystic ovary syndrome
Since there is no known cause of the disease, prevention is difficult. In cases polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with overweight or obesity and successful weight loss is effective method. Low-carbohydrate diets and sustained regular exercise may help along with consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables help.
Prognosis of polycystic ovary syndrome
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are at risk for the following:
- Endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer
- Insulin resistance/Type II diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Weight gain
Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: August 17, 2013