Written by: Denise Morgan
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is an upsetting and complex condition, which although affecting 10% of women between the ages of 15 and 50 does not have a determinable cause at this moment in time. The term polycystic can be translated as many (poly) cysts which is not an entirely accurate description of the condition.
Common factors that are usual found in sufferers of PCOS are, enlarged ovaries and a significantly increased number of follicles on the exterior of the ovaries. Frustratingly, these characteristics are not always present.A polycystic ovary possesses many tiny follicles beneath its surface which fail to mature sufficiently and ovulate regularly. This can result in infrequent menstruation and ultimately, decreased fertility.
Without having thorough investigations, including an ultrasound scan, it may not be initially apparent that a woman may have PCOS. However, there are certain symptoms associated with the condition that can help identify PCOS Women with the condition may experience as an increased presence of facial and body hair, facial acne, irregular, infrequent or absent periods and weight gain. PCOS can be responsible any array of upsetting symptoms, with deepening of the voice and clitoromegaly (enlargement of the clitoris) presenting in women with the condition.
It has still not been established whether women are born with PCOS, or if it develops during puberty, yet evidence suggests that whatever causes it is inherited. However, merely possessing the gene that may cause PCOS is not enough to determine that the condition will develop. Although the exact cause of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is yet to be clarified, research has shown that there are numerous common factors apparent in women with the condition. These include the presence of increased androgens, a male associated hormone that is usually only present in women in very small amounts; increased levels of anti-Mullerian hormone; slight increase in insulin levels, and lower than normal levels of globulin, a blood protein that binds sex hormones.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect you may be suffering from PCOS, your GP will discuss your symptoms with you and can instigate various blood tests in conjunction with an ultra-sound scan. As the exact cause of the condition is still unknown, treatment can be difficult, but each factor can be addressed individually. If you and your GP have no concerns with regards to fertility, weight or other potential health issues, then there may not be any need for treatment.
However, there are circumstances that may lead to treatment being implemented and referral to a specialist made. Diet and exercise can assist with minimising the symptoms of PCOS and weight loss is known to decrease the presence of male-associated hormones and in turn, increase fertility. Medication can be used to control symptoms of PCOS and various forms of hormone and stimulation therapies are available via the NHS.
Research into PCOS is increasing and developments in prevention and cure continue to occur at a relatively rapid pace.
For further information about PCOS, contact your GP or visit the NHS website for advice and support.