Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
For many women, it seems our hormones are often out of balance. Uh, PMS anyone? But the reality is that this isn’t the case. Levels may rise and fall, but they are as they should be. When a woman’s hormones are actually out of balance that can be a real problem. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one issue with hormonal imbalance and it can affect your periods and make it difficult to become pregnant. If left untreated PCOS can also lead to more serious health problems down the road, things such as diabetes and heart disease.
What happens with PCOS?
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They trigger lots of important processes, everything from growth to energy production to moods. Sometimes the job of one hormone is to signal for the release of another hormone.
In PCOS, a woman will grow many small cysts on her ovaries. The cysts are not harmful but lead to hormonal imbalance. Early diagnosis and treatment with the team at Women’s Health Group can help control symptoms and prevent long-term issues.
The reasons the hormones get out of balance are not understood. One hormone triggers another, leading to a domino effect. PCOS seems to run in families.
Here are two examples of PCOS problems:
- With PCOS the sex hormones can make more androgens than normal. This causes the woman to stop ovulating, develop acne, and grow extra facial and body hair.
- The body may have trouble utilizing insulin, another hormone whose job is to regulate blood sugar. When this happens blood sugar levels rise and along with them your chances of getting diabetes.
In addition to the acne, unwanted hair growth, and ovulation problems, PCOS also makes most sufferers become obese.
Common symptoms of PCOS
- Weight gain
- Thinning scalp hair
- Extra hair — including thicker, darker facial hair, and additional hair on the chest, stomach, and back
- Irregular periods. Some women have no periods, others fewer than nine per year. Some have heavy bleeding.
How we diagnose PCOS
If you’re showing symptoms of PCOS, we start by looking at your past health patterns, symptoms, and menstrual cycles. During your physical exam, we’ll look for other signs, such as high blood pressure and abnormal hair growth. We’ll check your blood sugar, insulin, and the levels of other hormones so that we can rule out thyroid problems. We may include a pelvic ultrasound to look for cysts on your ovaries.
How PCOS is treated
Our treatment depends on if you are seeking to get pregnant, but can include oral contraceptives, anti-androgen medications, or ovulation induction medications. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, weight control, and not smoking are important facets of treatment. Weight loss may be all the treatment that is necessary, as it can help balance your hormones and restart your menstrual cycle.