September is PCOS awareness month and I am here to talk you through the symptons, causes, diagnosis, treatment and your fertility options. In a series of short blogs I hope to help you better understand the condition, and dispell any myths about this painful condition.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is known as PCOS for short, is a complex, heterogeneous disorder of uncertain etiology although recurrence in the same family is often observed supporting a genetic origin.
What are the symptons?
Some of the most common and recognizable symptoms of PCOS include :
- excess hair growth due to high levels of male hormones
- absent or irregular menstrual cycles due to ovulatory dysfunction
- some consider obesity as a main symptom of the disease, although approximately one-third of women with PCOS are of a normal weight or underweight.
PCOS is one of the primary causes of a woman’s infertility. It affects somewhere between 5-10% of women aged between 20 and 40. This makes it the most widespread reproductive syndrome for this age group of women.
What causes PCOS?
PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalances that disturb or prevent ovulation. Essentially, women with PCOS have an inappropriate production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). As a result, they experience limited egg development and an increase in testosterone and other typically male hormones (androgens).
FSH is responsible for stimulating the growth of follicles in the ovaries that contain the maturing egg. A lack of FSH for an extended period of time will prevent the follicles from maturing, keeping them as small, resting follicles within the ovary.
Increased levels of LH cause the body to produce too much estrogens and androgens, including testosterone, which can cause the endometrial tissue in the uterus to get very thick, resulting in heavy and/or irregular periods. The increase in androgens is also responsible for the excess hair growth and acne.
Another cause of PCOS is an insensitivity to insulin, which is responsible for an imbalanced fat metabolism. This, many times, results in increased weight gain and obesity that places the patient at higher risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In my next blog, I will explain how PCOS is diagnosed, and how the condition can be treated successfully. Around 30% of women suffering with PCOS are never diagnosed, so please share this blog on your social media and show your support to raise awareness about PCOS.
– Dr Corona