Signs and symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (say “pah-lee-SIS-tik OH-vuh-ree SIN-drohm”) is a problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. It can cause problems with your periods and make it difficult to get pregnant.
PCOS also may cause unwanted changes in the way you look. If it isn’t treated, over time it can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Most women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries. That is why it is called polycystic ovary syndrome.
The cysts are not harmful but lead to hormone imbalances.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help control the symptoms and prevent long-term problems.
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:
The sex hormones get out of balance.
Normally, the ovaries make a tiny amount of male sex hormones (androgens). In PCOS, they start making slightly more androgens. This may cause you to stop ovulating, get acne, and grow extra facial and body hair.
The body may have a problem using insulin, called insulin resistance.
When the body doesn’t use insulin well, blood sugar levels go up. Over time, this increases your chance of getting diabetes.
What causes PCOS?
The cause of PCOS is not fully understood, but genetics may be a factor. PCOS seems to run in families, so your chance of having it is higher if other women in your family have it or have irregular periods or diabetes. PCOS can be passed down from either your mother’s or father’s side.
The signs and symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome start soon after a woman begins her period, but PCOS can also develop during the later reproductive years. There are many signs to look out for; however, individuals might be affected differently, and the symptoms worsen with obesity.
The Mayo Clinic and WebMD say you should look out for the following symptoms:
1. Irregular menstrual cycles
This is one of the most common signs of PCOS. Some examples include periods that are on a 35-day or longer cycle, fewer than eight periods a year, long or heavy periods and a failure to menstruate for four months or longer.
2. Excess facial and body hair
You might find increased hair growth on your chin, chest, back, stomach and even toes.
You might experience depression or mood swings that seem out of character.
PCOS can also cause acne or very oily skin. Pimples might be very deep and painful.
5. Insulin-level issues
Excess insulin interferes with the ovaries’ ability to ovulate correctly.
Treating PCOS is different for everybody. Your doctor may prescribe lifestyle changes like diet and exercise to help lose weight. Your doctor might also prescribe birth control to help regulate your period and to decrease androgen production.
Each patient is different, though, so if you recognize any of the symptoms, you should talk to your doctor to get a diagnosis and learn the best way to treat your PCOS and symptoms.