Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, affects millions of women in the U.S.
Estimates of how many women in America are affected by PCOS are somewhere between 5 and 7 million. September draws attention nationally, and even internationally, to the plight of women dealing with PCOS. PCOS Awareness Month is a federally designated event in the United States. In our geographical area alone, two 5k walks in the coming weeks will bring needed concern to women suffering through PCOS sponsored by the PCOS Awareness Association.
The aim of PCOS Awareness Month is to help improve the lives of those affected by PCOS and to help them to overcome their symptoms as well as prevent and reduce their risks for life-threatening related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and cancer. Many women who have PCOS don’t even know it. It’s symptoms can vary from woman to woman. And because there is no single test to diagnose PCOS, health care providers often miss it. Common symptoms include irregular periods or no periods, fertility problems, excessive hair, weight gain, thinning hair on the head, and acne.
PCOS can be difficult to diagnose.
The Louisiana infertility specialists at Fertility Answers use these three main symptoms to help diagnose PCOS:
- Irregular periods – which means the ovaries don’t regularly release eggs (ovulation);
- Excess androgen – high levels of ‘male hormones’ in the body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair;
- Polycystic ovaries – the ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) which surround the eggs and can be seen on an ultrasound. It’s important to note that, despite the name, if you have PCOS you don’t actually have cysts.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it often runs in families. Women with PCOS are more likely to have a mother or sister with PCOS, too.
A main underlying problem with PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. In women with PCOS, the ovaries make more androgens than normal. Androgens are male hormones that females also make. High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation.
Researchers also think insulin may be linked to PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body to use or store. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies because they have problems using it. Excess insulin appears to increase the production of androgen. High androgen levels can lead to the common symptoms of the disorder, including acne, excessive hair growth, upper body weight gain and problems with ovulation.
Learn more about polycystic ovary syndrome.
If you’re curious about whether the symptoms you are experiencing may be PCOS, talking frankly with your gynecologist or one of our Louisiana infertility specialists will help you find answers. To learn more about polycystic ovary syndrome, contact us to schedule a consultation with a Louisiana fertility specialist.