Kristina McCain, MD: GYN
Monday, March 19, 2012
TOPIC: Understanding PCOS
News notes via www.webmd.com
What is (PCOS) Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a common hormonal disorder in women that with interferes with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries, or ovulation. It is the most common cause of infertility among women. PCOS occurs when a woman's body overproduces sex hormones, called androgens. The hormone imbalance prevents fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries from breaking open and releasing mature eggs. The fluid-filled sacs bunch together, causing many tiny cysts. Symptoms of PCOS include missed periods, abnormal facial and body hair growth, acne, and weight gain. PCOS may run in families
PCOS: What Happens?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a group of health problems linked to a woman's out-of-balance hormones. Common symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, infertility, repeat miscarriages, male-pattern hair loss, male-type facial and body hair, acne, and obesity. PCOS raises your risks for serious health problems, including high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, diabetes, and uterine (endometrial) cancer.
Hormone imbalances linked to PCOS cause several types of pregnancy problems and related problems, including:
You may have more regular menstrual cycles as you near menopause. The reason for this is not known. But your history of PCOS may still increase your long-term risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, diabetes, or endometrial cancer.
Problems with insulin and sugar metabolism
Insulin is a hormone that helps your body's cells get the sugar they need for energy. Sometimes these cells do not fully respond to the action of insulin. This is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can lead to an increase in blood sugar and diabetes.
Up to 40% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, and up to 10% get type 2 diabetes by the time they reach age 40.2 Insulin levels also rise in people with insulin resistance. High insulin levels can increase the production of male hormones and make your PCOS worse.
Serious health problems linked to insulin resistance include:
Heart and blood circulation problems
It is possible that high insulin from PCOS makes heart and blood vessel problems worse.2 These problems include:
What are hormones, and what happens in PCOS?
Hormones are chemical messengers that trigger many different processes, including growth and energy production. Often, the job of one hormone is to signal the release of another hormone.
For reasons that are not well understood, in PCOS the hormones get out of balance. One hormone change triggers another, which changes another. For example:
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms tend to be mild at first. You may have only a few symptoms or a lot of them. The most common symptoms are:
Causes of PCOS
PCOS problems are caused by hormone changes. One hormone change triggers another, which changes another. PCOS problems may include:
How is PCOS diagnosed?
To diagnose PCOS, the doctor will:
You may also have a pelvic ultrasound to look for cysts on your ovaries. Your doctor may be able to tell you that you have PCOS without an ultrasound, but this test will help him or her rule out other problems.
How is it treated?
Regular exercise, healthy foods, and weight control are key treatments for PCOS. Medicines to balance hormones may also be used. Getting treatment can reduce unpleasant symptoms and help prevent long-term health problems.
The first step in managing PCOS is to get regular exercise and eat heart-healthy foods. This can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. It can also help you lose weight if you need to.
A doctor may also prescribe medicines, such as:
It is important to see your doctor for follow-up to make sure treatment is working and to adjust it if needed. You may also need regular tests to check for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other possible problems.
It may take a while for treatments to help with symptoms such as facial hair or acne. In the meantime:
It can be hard to deal with having PCOS. If you are feeling sad or depressed, it may help to talk to a counselor or to other women who have PCOS. Ask your doctor about local support groups, or look for an online group. It can make a big difference to know that you are not alone.