It is currently believed that approximately 5 to 10% of women have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). It is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive years and the leading cause in women for infertility. Since many women can have PCOS without exhibiting any symptoms, the actual number of women affected could be as much as 10% more of the population.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Photo of a polycystic ovary courtesy of http://www.ovarian-cysts-pcos.com
Some of the most common symptoms include:
Amenorrhea (no menstrual period), infrequent menses, and/or oligomenorrhea (irregular bleeding) Menstrual cycles can often be scant, irregular and infrequent or may also exhibit in the form of spotting throughout the month.
Oligo or anovulation (infrequent or absent ovulation) Women with PCOS generally produce an egg but they don’t fully mature. Instead, these immature egg sacs can create ovarian cysts.
Hyperandrogenism Women who have PCOS generally also have an increase in serum levels of male hormones such as testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS).
Cystic ovaries Classic PCOS ovaries have a “string of pearls” or “pearl necklace” appearance with many cysts.
Enlarged ovaries Polycystic ovaries are usually 1.5 to 3 times larger than normal.
Chronic pelvic pain
Obesity or weight gain Most commonly referred to as an “apple figure”. PCOS women will generally gain weight primarily in the abdomen and waistline.
Insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and diabetes Insulin resistance is a condition where the body’s use of insulin is inefficient.
Hirsutism (excess hair) Excess hair growth such as on the face, chest, abdomen, thumbs, or toes.
Alopecia (female-pattern baldness or thinning hair) The thinning most commonly occurs on the top of the head.
Acrochordons (skin tags)
What causes PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. However, there are studies that may lead us to believe that there may be a genetic link. Just as one may have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, one might also have a disposition to PCOS.