Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Originally called Stein-Leventhal Syndrome after the doctors who discovered the condition, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or Syndrome O, is the leading cause of infertility in women and one of the leading causes of menstrual irregularities and weight gain or obesity. PCOS affects an estimated six to ten percent of all women, and most don't even know they have it.
Causes of PCOS
PCOS is due to an underlying metabolic problem, insulin resistance. When the body's muscles and fat tissues become resistant to insulin action, the pancreas produces increased amounts of insulin. These high insulin levels make weight loss extremely difficult and drive the ovary to produce high amounts of male hormones, which can trigger excess hair growth on women with PCOS. Weight gain and excess hair can be traumatic to a woman's self-esteem. High insulin and testosterone levels cause ovary follicles to die before they release mature eggs resulting in ovulation disruption which makes conception or maintaining a pregnancy difficult and can lead to infertility. Progesterone is not produced which causes lining of the uterus to build up, increasing risk of endometrial and uterine cancers.
- Irregular or absent menses
- Numerous cysts on the ovaries (in many, but not all, cases)
- Persistent adult acne
- Elevated insulin levels, insulin resistance, or diabetes
- Excess hair on the face and/or body
- Thinning of the scalp hair
- Weight problems or obesity that is often centered around the midsection.
Treatment for PCOS
PCOS is treatable, but not curable. Lifestyle modification through diet and exercise has been proven to be the most effective treatment for every woman suffering from this condition. For women desiring pregnancy, hormone therapy may be required. Topical creams are available for hair removal.
The first step to treatment is to speak to your physician.
Learn more about polycystic ovary syndrome at our online Health Encyclopedia.