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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is a common disorder causing changes in hormone levels and may cause many different symptoms including irregular periods, excess body hair, acne, male pattern hair thinning, and/or obesity. Male hormone (androgens) levels are elevated and the ovaries don’t ovulate monthly causing irregular menstrual periods. The first reports of PCOS involved women with multiple ovarian cysts (therefore the name) although we now know that ovarian cysts are not present in most women with PCOS. Although PCOS has a diverse range of causes, it is not entirely understood. There is now strong evidence it is largely a genetic disease.

Women with PCOS have insulin resistance which means that the pancreas has to produce higher levels of insulin than usual to keep the blood sugar normal. This increases the risk of developing diabetes and high cholesterol levels

The symptoms may include:

  • Irregular or absent periods (less than 8 per year)
  • Obesity or overweight (especially at the waist)
  • Acne
  • Excess dark hair on face or body
  • Thinning hair on scalp
  • Infertility (due to lack of ovulation)
  • Dark-colored skin at neck and armpits

Not all women with PCOS have all these problems. Each person may have a different mix of these symptoms. Other conditions may cause some of these concerns so it is important to discuss with your health care clinician your concerns.

What are the long-term health risks of PCOS?

Many women have PCOS without realizing it. Since PCOS affects hormone levels, it can cause other problems. Women are at higher risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and sleep apnea. Irregular menstrual cycles may increase the risk of cancer of the uterus (endometrial cancer) since the lining of the uterus may not shed as often as it should.

Women who have PCOS may also have difficulty with infertility but usually are able to conceive with the help of medication.

How is PCOS diagnosed?

There is not one test for PCOS. Your health care provider will ask about your medical history, perform a physical exam, and check your cholesterol, blood sugar and perhaps some hormone levels.

Goals and Benefits of PCOS treatment:

  • Decrease free testosterone levels with hormonal contraception (birth control pills). This treats acne and excess or thinning hair while regulating periods.
  • Decrease or prevent insulin resistance which can become diabetes. This can help with overweight, infertility, yeast infections and the dark skin on neck and armpits. Along with a healthy diet and exercise.
  • Decrease risk of heart disease. Lower cholesterol, achieve and maintain a healthy weight and regular physical activity, giving you a longer, healthier life with less risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

 

How Can We Help?

 

  • Call 812-855-7688 to make an appointment with a Women’s Clinic provider for a personal health assessment.
  • Call 812-855-7688 to meet with a Health & Wellness Education registered dietitian to help you eat healthier.
  • If you smoke, visit Health & Wellness Education for free help to quit. This will help cut risks of heart disease.
  • Schedule an appointment with a personal trainer at the SRSC or WIC to help you be fit.

 

For more information:

http://www.uptodate.com - information in Spanish

The Endocrine Society- information in Spanish - http://www.hormone.org/

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association - http://www.pcosupport.org/

PCOS fact sheet: http://www.womenshealth.gov