The symptoms and causes of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)? And what are the signs, symptoms, and causes? At Heights Obstetrics and Gynecology, we hear a lot of questions about PCOS. We’re doing our part to help raise awareness and foster an open discussion about this important topic.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age (affects approximately 1 in 10 women), that creates a variety of endocrine problems. With PCOS, the egg may not release as it should, causing the ovaries to fail to regularly release eggs. According to research, certain genes may be linked to PCOS. So, if you have a mother, sister, or aunt with PCOS, then your risk of PCOS may be higher.
September is designed as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Awareness Month. Regardless of the time of year, it’s important to make yourself aware of the symptoms and findings of PCOS and to understand what you should do if you think you’re at risk.
Symptoms of PCOS
Signs and symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman. Some of the symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular Menstrual Cycle
Infrequent, irregular or prolonged periods are the most common sign of PCOS. Women with PCOS may miss periods or have fewer periods than normal, or their periods may come more often than once a month. Some women with PCOS stop having menstrual periods altogether. Irregular periods can lead to the inability to get pregnant. In fact, PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women.
- Excess Androgen
High levels of hormones may result in too much hair on the face, chin, or other parts of the body. This symptom can also occasionally result in acne on the face, chest, and upper back; thinning hair; or hair loss due to male-pattern baldness.
- Polycystic Ovaries
Irregular periods can lead to the development of small cysts in the ovaries. Your ovaries may contain follicles that surround the eggs, which can potentially cause the ovaries to fail to function regularly.
- Weight Gain
About half of women who have PCOS will experience weight gain or obesity. With PCOS, you tend to gain weight, especially around the waist, as well as have a hard time losing it.
Causes of PCOS
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Most experts think several of these factors might play a role:
- High Levels of Insulin
Insulin is the hormone that controls how the food you eat is transformed into energy for your body. Insulin resistance can cause your blood sugar levels to rise, resulting in your body producing more insulin. This excess insulin may increase your body’s androgen production, causing difficulty with ovulation and extra hair growth. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes.
- Excess Androgen
Women with PCOS have more androgens than normal. Higher levels of androgen can prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg during each menstrual cycle, and can also result in an increase in bodily hair as well as acne.
When to seek treatment
If you’ve experienced any multiple of these symptoms, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your OBGYN to get a blood test. Once you get your results, your physician may also suggest a vaginal ultrasound to check for cysts, although not all women who have PCOS develop ovarian cysts.
If you’re looking for an OBGYN, it’s easy to find a Heights OBGYN provider near you.