Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder affecting women of reproductive age. It is a heterogeneous syndrome, meaning that its signs and symptoms can vary from person to person. It is important to note that the symptoms experienced by one woman with PCOS may differ significantly from those experienced by another. While some women with PCOS may have excessive body hair but regular menstruation, others may struggle with fertility despite not exhibiting signs of elevated male hormones, such as acne or excessive body hair. Interestingly, approximately half of women with PCOS may not display any symptoms at all or may have symptoms that do not align with the classic presentation of the syndrome.
PCOS occurs due to a hormonal imbalance, where women with PCOS produce slightly higher amounts of androgens, commonly referred to as “male” hormones. This imbalance leads to various health issues, many of which are related to the reproductive system. PCOS affects approximately 10% of women and is a significant cause of female infertility. By understanding this condition, individuals can become more aware of its complexities and how it may impact their health.
Some Of The Symptoms Of PCOS Include:
Some Of The Symptoms Of PCOS Include:
Irregular Menstrual Cycle
Too Much Hair
Darkening Of Skin
Potential PCOS Causes
The exact cause of PCOS is not known. Most experts think that several factors, including genetics, play a role:
Women and girls with PCOS are more likely to gain excess weight and women and girls who are obese are more likely to have the condition, there is a tight, but not absolute, link between the two.
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 PCOS 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 PCOS have insulin resistance, especially those who are overweight or obese, have unhealthy eating habits, and do not get enough regular exercise.
For ovulation to occur, a normal, estrogen-dominant environment must be present in the ovary. In women with PCOS, there is a higher amount of androgen released by the ovaries, and the hormonal balance between estrogen and androgen is disrupted, leading to ovulation problems.
- Female hormones – these are called estrogen and progesterone and are made by the ovaries. The ovaries are controlled by the brain hormones, LH and FSH:
- To have a regular period, the ovary needs to release an ‘egg’ each month and the hormones in the brain and ovary need to go up and down in a regular pattern.
- In PCOS, this does not happen properly and that means the periods don’t come regularly – often only a few times a year.
- Instead of making one large 20mm cyst (ovulatory or dominant follicle) containing the ‘egg’ to be released every month (ovulation), the ovary makes lots of little cysts, 9mm or smaller, and doesn’t release an egg.
- This means it can be harder for PCOS women to get pregnant.
- Also, the lining of the uterus (endometrium) builds up each month because of the hormone stimulation, but it does not come away as no period occurs. This can result in the lining becoming quite thick over time and when the bleeding finally does come, it can be very heavy.
- Insulin is made by your pancreas. Insulin’s job is to help carry sugar into your cells to provide energy for the cells to work and grow.
- In PCOS, the cells don’t respond to normal amounts of insulin. This is known as ‘insulin resistance’ and it causes the pancreas to make more insulin than usual. Often the level of sugar in the blood is high too.
- Insulin resistance can be associated with health problems including diabetes (Type II), weight gain (especially around the tummy), and high cholesterol-like blood fats (also called lipids).
- Insulin resistance can also be associated with patches of thickened, dark, velvety skin in the armpits and back of the neck (called acanthosis nigricans).
- High blood pressure.
- Unhealthy cholesterol.
- Sleep apnea.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Endometrial cancer.
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Higher rates of miscarriage