Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that can affect a woman’s ability to produce eggs. PCOS is linked with higher levels of circulating insulin, which is characteristic in type 2 diabetes.
A UK study in 2012 showed that the risk of diabetes for women with PCOS was notably higher.
What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
PCOS is a condition that affects women’s ovaries causing an abnormal number of cysts to appear on the surface of the ovaries.
The cysts are follicles which contain undeveloped eggs.
Having a higher than normal level, or activity, of male hormones is also a relatively common feature of PCOS.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
The symptoms of PCOS may include one or more of the following:
- Irregular or loss of periods
- Fertility problems
- Weight gain
- Hirsutism (excessive hair growth)
- Thinning of or loss of hair
How common is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Diabetes UK states that PCOS is a common condition affecting about 1 in 5 women at some point in their lives.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
The NHS states that the appearance of two or more of following three conditions can lead to a diagnosis of PCOS:
- A number of cysts developing around the edge of the ovaries (polycystic ovaries)
- Failure in ovulation (release of eggs)
- A higher than normal levels of male hormones or more active male hormones than normal
A diagnosis of PCOS will typically involve a number of tests which may include blood tests, blood pressure checks and ultrasound scans.
What causes PCOS?
Insulin resistance and weight gain are two contributing factors to PCOS. Insulin resistance typically causes the body to produce more insulin than normal (hyperinsulinemia). Higher levels of insulin can then cause ovaries to produce too much testosterone which can impair normal ovulation from occurring.
Increased levels of insulin can also cause weight gain which is typically associated with the development of both type 2 diabetes and PCOS.
Despite being generally regarded as a male hormone, all women produce testosterone, albeit in lower quantities than men.
Treatment for PCOS
Treatments for PCOS can vary. Lifestyle changes will be recommended, particularly in overweight patients. Lifestyle changes may be help with reducing symptoms such as weight gain, hair growth and acne.
Medication may also prescribed to help with different symptoms.
Metformin is a medication for type 2 diabetes that can help with insulin sensitivity.
Specific contractive pills or anti-androgen drugs may be advised if hormones are not correctly balanced.
Treatment for infertility from PCOS
Fertility problems can also be treated by the following means:
- Clomifene is a fertility medication that can help to induce ovulation.
- Laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) is a surgical procedure that can restore ovulation
- In vitro fertilisation (IVF) may be required if the above are not successful or not appropriate