Polycystic Ovary Syndrome FAQ
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome or Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCOD) occurs when developing follicles that are normally ovulated each cycle actually remain trapped inside the ovary. In time, they fill with fluid and develop into cysts on the internal ovarian wall.
What are some of the symptoms of PCOS?
- Irregular or absent menses, spotting, heavy, or abnormally lengthy periods.
- Infrequent or absent ovulation.
-Weight Problems or obesity. Commonly a woman with PCOS will have excess weight is concentrated heavily in the abdomen. Most, but not all women with PCOS are overweight.
- Numerous cysts on the ovaries. PCOS ovaries have a 'pearl necklace' appearance with many cysts (fluid-filled sacs).
- Enlarged ovaries. Polycystic ovaries are usually 1.5 to 3 times larger than normal.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Pelvic pain.
- Excessive facial or body hair known as hirsutism and male pattern hair loss. This is due to increased serum levels of male hormones. Specifically, testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate.
- Acne, oily skin or dandruff.
- Dark patches of skin, tan to dark brown/black, most commonly on the back of the neck, but also but also in skin creases under arms, breasts, and between thighs, occasionally on the hands, elbows and knees. The darkened skin is usually velvety or rough to the touch.
- Elevated insulin levels, Insulin Resistance, or Diabetes.
- Acrochordons (skin tags). Tiny flaps of skin that usually cause no symptoms unless irritated by rubbing.
- High cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
- Exhaustion or lack of mental alertness.
- Depression, and/or anxiety.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Sleep apnea—excessive snoring.
How common is PCOS?
PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age. While it affects an estimated 5-10 percent of women of childbearing age, as many as 30 percent of women have some characteristics of the syndrome without knowing they have it.
How is PCOS Diagnosed? Are There Tests to Detect It?
At this time, there is no single definitive test for PCOS. This is because no exact cause has been established. This is why there is a wide-range of opinion on how to diagnose and treat it. PCOS is usually diagnosed based on a physical exam, ultrasound of the ovaries, and the results of various blood tests. Diagnosis is made based on having several of the symptoms listed above.
How is PCOS Treated? Is There a Cure?
Great strides have been made in the treatment of PCOS. While at one point surgery or drugs were used to stop the production of sex hormones, recent emphasis is placed on drugs designed to regulate the body’s production of insulin, and nutritional supplements that lower insulin levels to allow for natural ovulation.
There is no cure for PCOS- it is a condition that is managed, rather than cured. Treatment of the symptoms of PCOS can help reduce risks of future health problems. In terms of long-term health risks, PCOS is associated with increased risk for endometrial hyperplasia, endometrial cancer, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
While incurable, with medications and changes in diet and exercise PCOS /is/ treatable.