Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: The Facts

What is it?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (or PCOS) is a condition found in 5-10% of women between late adolescence and menopause. PCOS involves ovary enlargement and the growth of multiple tiny cysts on the ovaries themselves. A cyst is a fluid filled sack that erupts on the surface of the ovary.

The symptoms of PCOS are usually noticeable over a period of several months and are not ordinarily sudden changes. Symptoms of this condition commonly include obesity, growth of facial hair, acne, and irregular periods. However, some women with PCOS are not overweight, and some cease to have their periods at all. Women with PCOS also stop ovulating. This is what causes the irregular or nonexistent periods.

Recent studies have shown that patients with PCOS have seven times the risk of heart attack and heart disease of other women and by the age of 40, nearly 40% with have type 2 diabetes or reduced sugar tolerance. These problems are mostly related to the lack of the hormones of the menstrual cycle.

The method of treatment for PCOS depends upon if the woman would like to resume being fertile. If fertility is desired, then hormone replacements are prescribed, which should assist the body in resuming ovulation, in addition to rebalancing the body's hormonal levels, which will in turn lessen the severity of the other symptoms.

If fertility is not an issue, oral contraceptives (the pill) are used to suppress facial hair growth. Women with PCOS are also at risk for growths on the uterus, but this can be avoided by taking the pill. Newer treatments are also aimed at managing hormonal abnormalities through diabetes treatment techniques and attention to cardiovascular risk factors such as cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, physical exercise, and obesity.

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