According to the CDC, Up to 12 percent of women of childbearing age suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition that can cause infertility. PCOS develops because of hormonal imbalances and metabolic issues that affect the reproductive system.
For many women with the condition, missed periods and anovulation are commonplace. During the menstrual cycle, although the ovaries may start to prepare an egg for release, the egg may not fully develop, or it may fail to detach from the ovary, leading to the development of ovarian cysts. The cysts for which the condition is named are small sacs that are filled with fluid.
Many women may not realize that they have PCOS until they receive a diagnosis from their physician. Still, if you have been recently diagnosed with PCOS, you may know little about the condition or how to combat it.
Here is a bit of information to help you better understand PCOS.
Women who are diagnosed with PCOS often suffer from the following:
- Amenorrhea. Even though you may not be pregnant, with PCOS, you may miss multiple menstrual cycles. In some cases, you may stop menstruating indefinitely.
- Skin tags. Tiny mole-like flaps of skin may appear near your neck and around your armpits.
- Hirsutism. You may develop hair on your chin, upper lip, and other areas of your body, such as your chest and back, due to an increase in male hormones.
- Hair loss. Although hair growth on some portions of your body may increase, the hair on your scalp may thin or even fall out in areas.
- Weight gain. You may gain weight, particularly around your waist, due to the insulin resistance that is often associated with PCOS.
- Dark patches of skin. Women with PCOS may also develop darkened skin around their neck, under their breasts, and in the groin region.
Even though you may have PCOS, you may not display every symptom. In addition, your symptoms may resolve with proper treatment.
The development of PCOS is influenced by many different factors, including heredity. However, two factors are commonly recognized as possible causes:
- Hyperinsulinemia. Higher-than-normal levels of insulin may be present in the blood. Women with PCOS are often insulin-resistant, especially if they are overweight, obese, or inactive.
- Androgen overproduction. Although every woman has androgens in her body, the levels are usually minute. However, women with PCOS typically have higher levels of male hormones in the body, preventing ovulation and causing hirsutism.
As insulin and androgen levels subside, the symptoms of PCOS may decline. However, an increase in the hormone levels can cause a resurgence of the symptoms.
The hormonal changes associated with polycystic ovaries can prevent ovulation and consequently pregnancy. Additionally, women with PCOS are more likely to suffer a pregnancy loss and develop gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Thus, if you become pregnant, your doctor will likely monitor your condition closely.
The symptoms of PCOS can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications. To improve your body's sensitivity to insulin, your doctor may suggest that you eat fewer processed foods, exercise regularly, and lose weight. Additionally, medications may be used to regulate your menstrual cycle, lower the androgen levels in your body, and reduce insulin resistance.
Metformin, a medicine that is prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes, is often used to reduce PCOS symptoms. The drug helps the insulin created by your body to lower blood sugar levels more effectively.
As an alternative to metformin, some women with PCOS take natural supplements, such as berberine, to treat their condition. However, it is important to have your physician's approval before using any natural remedy to treat PCOS.
If you believe that you are suffering from PCOS, contact Jack G. Faup M.D. to schedule an appointment.