PCOS – a common female endocrine disorder

  • Newsletter - Apr14 - PcosHave you been struggling with your weight from a young age?

  • Have you noticed irregularities in your menstrual cycles?

  • Have you been screened for PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome?

Although PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common female endocrine disorders, affecting 1 out of 15 women, its underlying causes are somewhat mysterious. It appears to be a condition caused by changes in various sex hormone and insulin levels. The reasons for these changes, however, are not yet fully understood.

While it is normal for your ovaries to produce small amounts of male hormones, in PCOS they may produce a little more. These hormone changes may lead to your body developing male-like characteristics (hair around your face or nipples, male-pattern baldness) as well as changes in menstrual cycles.

Normally during ovulation, one or more fully grown eggs are released by your ovaries. If the eggs are not fertilized, they do not attach to the wall of your uterus. A menstrual period occurs as your uterus sheds the extra tissue lining built up during ovulation, along with the unfertilized egg and, of course, some blood. In PCOS, these mature eggs are not always released, forming small cysts on your ovaries instead. This may lead to irregular periods, and in some cases, ovulation may cease altogether.

Many women with PCOS may also develop problems with insulin. Though insulin has several other functions, this hormone is released in when the body detects high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood, allowing sugar to be deposited in fat and muscle tissue. In PCOS, however, the body may not respond to insulin as quickly; insulin resistance occurs when the body produces higher and higher doses of insulin in order to process glucose. Consistently high blood sugar can increase chances of developing diabetes.

Some common symptoms of PCOS include

  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Extra hair on the face and body
  • Thinning hair on the scalp
  • Acne
  • Weight gain and trouble losing weight
  • Infertility

It is important to note that PCOS is usually worsened by poor dietary choices, physical inactivity, and obesity.

Though PCOS is a chronic disorder it is treatable. Some of the most common treatments include weight loss and/or birth control pills, both of which may help regulate hormone changes, but treatments vary on a highly individual basis.

If you are concerned that you or a friend may have PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome, schedule an appointment with one of our gynecologists. Blood tests are commonly administered to assess hormone levels, and ultrasounds are often conclusive when diagnosing PCOS. Our medical staff will gladly provide you with the best advice and treatment to suit your particular needs.

This article appeared in our April, 2014 Newsletter. For further information about the online publication and to sign up, please click here.