What is PCOS?

What is PCOS? If you're wondering...

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in which there is an imbalance of a woman's female sex hormones. This hormone imbalance may cause changes in the menstrual cycle, skin changes, small cysts in the ovaries, trouble getting pregnant, and other problems.



Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Female sex hormones include estrogen and progesterone, as well as hormones called androgens. Androgens, often called "male hormones," are also present in women, but in different amounts.
Hormones help regulate the normal development of eggs in the ovaries during each menstrual cycle. Polycystic ovary syndrome is related to an imbalance in these female sex hormones. Too much androgen hormone is made, along with changes in other hormone levels.
It is not completely understood why or how the changes in the hormone levels occur.
Follicles are sacs within the ovaries that contain eggs. Normally, one or more eggs are released during each menstrual cycle. This is called ovulation. In polycystic ovary syndrome, the eggs in these follicles do not mature and are not released from the ovaries. Instead, they can form very small cysts in the ovary.
These changes can contribute to infertility. The other symptoms of this disorder are due to the hormone imbalances.
Women are usually diagnosed when in their 20s or 30s, but polycystic ovary syndrome may also affect teenage girls. The symptoms often begin when a girl's periods start. Women with this disorder often have a mother or sister who has symptoms similar to those of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Symptoms

Changes in the menstrual cycle:
  • Absent periods, usually with a history of having one or more normal menstrual periods during puberty (secondary amenorrhea)
  • Irregular menstrual periods, which may be more or less frequent, and may range from very light to very heavy
Development of male sex characteristics:
  • Decreased breast size
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Enlargement of the clitoris
  • Increased body hair on the chest, abdomen, and face, as well as around the nipples
  • Thinning of the hair on the head, called male-pattern baldness
Other skin changes:
  • Acne that gets worse
  • Dark or thick skin markings and creases around the armpits, groin, neck, and breasts due to insulin sensitivity

    Complications

    • Increased risk of endometrial cancer
    • Infertility (early treatment of polycystic ovary disease can help prevent infertility or increase the chance of having a healthy pregnancy)
    • Obesity-related (BMI over 30 and waist circumferance greater than 35) conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes
    • Possible increased risk of breast cancer

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