Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is
a set of symptoms caused by a problem with a woman’s hormones. It affects the ovaries.
These are the small organs that store a woman’s eggs. But it can also affect the rest of
the body. PCOS is a very common condition in women of childbearing age. In some cases,
it can lead to serious health issues if not treated.
Ovulation happens when a mature egg
is released from an ovary. This happens so it can be fertilized by a male sperm. If the
egg is not fertilized, it is sent out of the body during your period.
In some cases, a woman doesn’t make enough of the hormones needed to ovulate. When ovulation doesn’t happen, the ovaries can develop many small fluid-filled sacs (cysts). These cysts make hormones called androgens. Androgens are a type of male hormone, but women normally have them in smaller amounts. Women with PCOS often have high levels of androgens. This can cause more problems with a woman’s menstrual cycle. And it can cause many of the symptoms of PCOS.
Treatment for PCOS is often done with medicine. This can’t cure PCOS, but it helps reduce symptoms and prevent some health problems.
Doctors don't know the exact cause
of PCOS. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance. This means the body can't use
insulin well. Insulin levels build up in the body and may cause higher androgen levels.
Obesity can also increase insulin levels and make PCOS symptoms worse.
PCOS may also run in families. It's common for sisters or a mother and daughter to have PCOS.
You may be more likely to have PCOS if your mother or sister has it. You may also be more likely to have it if you have insulin resistance or are obese.
The symptoms of PCOS may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask
about your health history and your symptoms. You will also have a physical exam. This
will likely include a pelvic exam. This exam checks the health of your reproductive
organs, both inside and outside your body.
Some of the symptoms of PCOS are like those caused by other health problems. Because of this, you may also have tests such as:
Treatment for PCOS depends on a number of factors. These may include your age, how severe your symptoms are, and your overall health. The type of treatment may also depend on whether you want to become pregnant in the future.
If you do plan to become pregnant, your treatment may include:
If you don't plan to become
pregnant, your treatment may include:
Women with PCOS are more likely to develop certain serious health problems. These include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, problems with the heart and blood vessels, and uterine cancer. Women with PCOS often have problems with their ability to get pregnant (fertility).
Some women struggle with the physical symptoms of PCOS, such as weight gain, hair growth, and acne. Cosmetic treatments, such as electrolysis and laser hair removal, may help you feel better about your appearance. Talk with your healthcare provider about the best ways to treat the symptoms that bother you.
Call your healthcare provider if you have missed or irregular
periods, extra hair growth, acne, and weight gain.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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