Understanding PCOS

Annual Women's Health Section

Approximately 1 in 10 women experience Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Here’s what you should know.

What Is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, often referred to as PCOS, is a common condition caused by a hormonal imbalance in women. This imbalance, if not controlled, can lead to a range of serious health issues, such as abnormal menstruation, difficulty getting pregnant, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, an increased risk of endometrial cancer, as well as an increased risk of depression.

What Causes PCOS?

Though the cause for PCOS is chromosomal, no one currently knows what triggers it. The imbalance of hormones surrounding the cysts that occur on the ovaries causes confusion in the body, which can lead to insulin resistance, decreased metabolism, or increased androgens, all of which can cause a chain reaction of developing symptoms.

Symptoms & Signs

PCOS has a range of symptoms including:

  • Irregular periods
  • Excess hair on your face, chin, neck, or other parts of your body that are typical of male hair growth (hirsutism)
  • Acne
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Skin tags
  • Thinning hair or hair loss

Diagnosis & Management

When it comes to diagnosis of PCOS, it is typically “ruled in” by your doctor – also known as a diagnosis of exclusion. Your doctor might evaluate your menstrual history to determine if the irregularities in your cycle are chronic or fall in a pattern. An ultrasound test verifies if there are multi-cystic features on your ovaries. Lab results confirm whether or not your insulin and/or hormone levels are abnormal. If diagnosed, there is no cure for PCOS, but there are many methods of effective management, including lifestyle changes and medication prescribed by your doctor. HS

An Expert Weighs In

"The cysts on the ovaries are not just fluid-filled spaces but are all hormonally active. Imagine if you were trying to have a serious conversation at a concert - more than likely, the message will get lost and the other person will be confused. Likewise, the noise from the wrong ratio of hormones can confuse your uterus, pancreas, thyroid, and brain. Those organs just fill in the blanks, usually with the wrong information, causing chaos. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can affect your periods, fertility, and your long-term health."

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