Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age. PCOS is a condition where enlarged cysts are located on the outer edge of each ovary. Up to 25% of the women have multiple fluid-filled cysts in their ovaries, however, many of these women don’t develop PCOS. When a woman gets affected with polycystic ovary syndrome, her pituitary gland may discharge high levels of luteinising hormone (LH) and the ovaries may make excess androgens. This disrupts the normal menstrual cycle, and may lead to infertility, excess body hair and acne.
The main cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is still unclear, however, there are some factors which may play a role in the development of PCOS.
- If a woman’s body develops insulin resistance, the ability to use insulin effectively gets damaged, and the pancreas has to secrete more insulin to make glucose available to the cells. It is believed that the excess insulin boosts androgen production by the ovaries.
- Eating certain food items can trigger an inflammatory response in some predisposed people. In such a scenario, the white blood cells of the woman’s body produce substances that may lead to insulin resistance and cholesterol accumulation.
- If other women in the family, as in mother or sisters have PCOS, there are high chances that you may develop PCOS as well.
Depending on the degree of the hormonal imbalance, the symptoms of PCOS may vary in severity. The symptoms are:
- Irregular or missed periods
- Excessive hair growth on the face, around the nipples, and/or around on the lower abdomen
- Thinning of the hair on the head
- Persistent acne
- Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
The course of treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. First of all, blood samples are taken to measure the levels of sex hormones, and the woman may also have to go through ultrasound scanning to check for ovarian cysts. Losing weight may help reduce the symptoms of PCOS. If the woman wants to conceive, infertility can be treated with certain drugs like clomifene. The cysts may also be treated with a type of heat therapy known as diathermy. If the woman doesn’t want to have children, abnormal/irregular menstrual cycle can be treated with a combined contraceptive pill. Anti-diabetic drugs may be prescribed to treat insulin resistance in the woman’s body. These drugs may restore ovulation and regulate periods.