Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal imbalance disorder that can affect women of childbearing age. The symptoms of PCOS can be different for every woman and ranges from mild to severe. The most common symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods, excess facial and body hair, and difficulty getting pregnant.
There is no one cause of PCOS, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. PCOS is a treatable condition, and there are many things you can do to manage your symptoms and live a healthy life.
What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
This is a hormonal disorder that causes the ovaries to become enlarged and develop multiple fluid-filled sac-like structures called cysts on the outer edges.
It is the main cause of anovulatory infertility in women. it is also the most common hormone-related disease affecting women of reproductive age.
A menstrual cycle known as an anovulatory cycle is one in which ovulation—the release of an egg from the ovaries—does not take place. Anovulation is frequently caused by hormonal imbalances,
These hormonal imbalances can be triggered by hormonal birth control, being underweight or overweight, or excessive exercise.
In addition, it is a major leading cause of endometrial cancer. PCOS is significantly linked to a variety of metabolic conditions, including
- Glucose intolerance
- Diabetes mellitus type II (T2DM)
Menstrual dysfunction and hyperandrogenism (increased testosterone which leads to the development of excessive male features like deep voice, facial hair, and broad shoulders) are two common early manifestations of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in adolescents.
A study showed that the worldwide prevalence of PCOS is estimated to be 5–10%. PCOS could be diagnosed by
- Amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea,
- Insulin resistance,
Having just two out of this list is enough to consult your doctor for further tests. However, you need laboratory and diagnostic tests for confirmation of diagnosis.
The Causative Factors Of PCOS.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. However, scientists have said that factors like hormones, genetics, lifestyle, and insulin sensitivity amongst others.
Your reproductive hormones will be out of balance if you have PCOS. This may result in issues with your ovaries, such as irregular or absent menstrual cycles.
Your body produces hormones to cause many that enable different processes in the body. Some have an impact on your menstrual cycle and are connected to your capacity to conceive. Hormones involved are
• Androgens. Although they are sometimes considered male hormones, women also have them. Usually, higher amounts are found in women with PCOS.
• Insulin. Blood sugar is controlled by this hormone. Your body may not respond to insulin as it should if you have PCOS. Insulin levels build up in the body and may cause higher androgen levels
• Progesterone. Your body may not produce enough of this hormone if you have PCOS. You can have problems estimating when your period will arrive or miss it for a very long time. It also causes vaginal dryness
Not much is known about the prevalence of PCOS in different races. However, a study conducted noted that there was no difference in the distribution of PCOS between white and black women.
In a study done in 1968, it was shown that people whose relatives, siblings, and parents that had suffered from PCOS, carried a high probability of also getting PCOS. They found that those who had first-degree relatives with PCOS had at least a 55% to 60% chance of having PCOS. This goes to show that it is very likely that if a first-degree relative, mom, sister, or aunty has PCOS, you may also likely develop it.
Candidates For PCOS
Once a woman hits puberty, she can develop PCOS at any time. When a person is attempting to get pregnant in their 20s or 30s, this is when they are typically diagnosed. If you are obese or overweight and have a family history of PCOS, you have a higher risk of developing this condition
Symptoms Of PCOS.
PCOS can have varying symptoms in some women, but these are the most common
- Missed, infrequent, prolonged, or irregular menstrual periods
- Heavy bleeding during periods
- Facial hair growth (hirsutism)
- Sometimes a deep voice
- Darkened skin
- Skin tags on the neck or in the armpits
- Mood changes
- Pelvic pain
- Abdominal weight gain
- Thinning hair
- Body weight gain
It is good to note that the above listed are the more common symptoms of PCOS in women.
Some Less Common Symptoms Of PCOS are
Loss of sex drive.
Frequent headaches: It is often caused by low progesterone which is triggered by infrequent ovulation
Decrease in breast size: This is also triggered by imbalanced production of estrogen and progesterone
Frequent spotting: Even though irregular bleeding can cause postmenstrual spotting. PCOS also triggers spotting frequently.
Binge eating: this leads to weight gain and more significantly abdominal weight gain. this is caused by the hormonal combination of testosterone, insulin, and cortisol.
What Organs Are Affected By Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
The organs affected by PCOS include
Ovaries: The cysts grow on the external part of the ovaries. PCOS affects ovulation. This means no eggs will be released during the menstrual cycle
Adrenal Gland; These glands secrete cortisol. Cortisol combined with insulin resistance and testosterone increases the retention of abdominal fat
Pituitary gland. PCOS is a hormonal imbalance disorder. The pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain sends signals to the ovaries when to release an egg. Women with PCOS also have elevated LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone)
Fat cells: Abdominal obesity and insulin resistance stimulate ovarian and adrenal androgen production.
Pancreas: Insulin resistance is one of the root causes of PCOS. This happens when your pancreas needs to pump out more insulin in response to high blood sugar levels. Insulin lowers your blood sugar by storing the glucose in cells.
But since cells become insulin resistant in PCOS, your blood sugar is not lowered. This can lead to spikes in blood sugar. This makes PCOS a bitter cycle
Hormones Involved In PCOS
Luteinizing hormone: LH helps control the menstrual cycle. It also triggers the release of an egg from the ovary. This is known as ovulation.
Follicle-stimulating hormone: This is secreted by the anterior pituitary gland and regulates the development, growth, puberty, and reproductive processes of the body
Androgens (testosterone). Androgen is a hormone that regulates the development of male characteristics
Estrogen. This hormone is responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics.
Progesterone. It is a hormone involved in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. It is also responsible for making thick mucus for the cervix. Lack of it triggers vaginal dryness.
Insulin. This hormone is produced in the pancreas. It regulates the amount of glucose in the blood.
Diagnosis and Tests.
There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. Your doctor will conduct a series of tests, These tests may include
- Your Medical history
- Physical exam of the body.
Your doctor will measure your
- Waist size,
- Blood pressure,
- Body mass index (BMI).
Additionally, they’ll check your skin for acne, skin discoloration, or additional hair on your face, chest, or back. Your doctor may examine you for any symptoms of hair loss or other health issues (such as an enlarged thyroid gland).
Pelvic exam. A pelvic exam may be performed by your doctor to look for signs of excess male hormones (such as an enlarged clitoris) and to determine whether your ovaries are big or swollen.
Abdominal/ pelvic ultrasound (sonogram). This examination checks the endometrium and your ovaries for cysts using sound waves .
Blood tests. Your doctor will order blood tests to examine your levels of androgen hormones, sometimes known as “male hormones,”. He may also test for other hormones linked to other frequent health issues that may be confused for PCOS, like thyroid disease.
Additionally, your doctor might check you’re your blood sugar levels.
PCOS victims frequently have low-grade inflammation. C-reactive protein (CRP) and white blood cell count can be done through blood tests by your doctor to determine how much inflammation is present in your body.
Treatments For PCOS
Hormonal birth control methods include
- Oral pills
- Vaginal rings
- Estrogen Patches
- Depo Provera Shots
- Intrauterine devices (IUD).
Hormonal birth control aids in acne improvement, excess hair growth reduction, and menstrual cycle regulation.
Metformin: This is a medication for diabetes. It functions by aiding insulin metabolism in your body. Some PCOS victims experience improvements in their menstrual cycles once their insulin levels are under control.
Drugs that block androgens: Some medications can prevent androgens from working. This aids in reducing acne or hair development brought on by PCOS. Find out if they are a good fit for you by speaking with your doctor. Some of these methods do affect your hormone levels.
Getting Pregnant With PCOS
Ovulation-Inducing Medications: Ovulation is the first step in a healthy pregnancy. It has been demonstrated that several medications can cause ovulation in PCOS women.
Gonadotropins (hormones secreted by the pituitary gland) stimulate the activity of the gonads are administered intravenously.
Clomiphene Citrate ( Clomid): This drug is used to treat female infertility. It can also be used in males. It functions by causing a rise in the hormones needed to assist the development and release of a mature egg (ovulation).
Letrozole: It works to induce ovulation by blocking estrogen production, leading to increases in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) release. Its main use is in treating breast cancer (such as hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer) in women after. It is also used to help prevent cancer from returning.
|OVULATION RATE SUCCESS||36%||59%|
|LIVE BIRTH RATES||19%||27%|
|LESS FATIGUE AND DIZZINESS||ASSOCIATED WITH MORE FATIGUE AND DIZZINESS|
Surgery: By eliminating structures in the ovaries that are releasing androgen hormones, ovarian drilling surgery can cause ovulation to occur. However, this procedure has long been outdated due to new medications.
Invitro fertilization (IVF), your partner’s sperm fertilizes your egg in a laboratory before being transported to your uterus. When taking medicine doesn’t help with ovulation, women with PCOS can go for this option
Psychological Effects of PCOS
According to studies, women with PCOS frequently display signs of poor self-esteem, despair, and lower quality of life, as well as a negative opinion of their bodies.
Some of these stem from the fact that a lot of people do not understand what it means to have PCOS. Sometimes, some insensitive idiots say things to women who they know have PCOS, like this
“I know someone who has PCOS and she never complains like you.”
“I wonder what it’s like to not have a period? You must save a lot of money on pads”
“Why are you not pregnant yet.” ( if you are an African, this hits close to home)
“Stop trying so hard and fall pregnant”
“I think she is just pretending, this PCOS thing can’t be that serious”
“Your beards are more than mine”
The constant frustration that comes with PCOS. It’s like your own body is fighting all its natural God-given reproductive process and using you, the woman as a battering ram.
It is so hard to lose weight in PCOS not because of binge eating but because of hormonal imbalance. High levels of androgens in women with PCOS, increase abdominal fat storage.
This can be very challenging for women who have PCOS and have constantly tried to lose weight. Most women suffering from PCOS are going through a lot of emotional turmoil.
Women with PCOS have increased chances of developing additional health problems like
- Gestational diabetes (diabetes when pregnant)
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea —a disorder that causes breathing to stop during sleep
- Stroke—plaque (cholesterol and white blood cells) clogging blood vessels can lead to blood clots that in turn can cause a stroke
- Depression and anxiety,
Difference Between Polycystic Ovaries (PCO) and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovaries refers to when an ultrasound scan is done, and you see multiple cysts of partially matured follicles. Polycystic ovaries are more prevalent, in fact, 33% of women have polycystic ovaries. Polycystic ovaries are just a variant of normal ovaries and it is not a disease.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal imbalance disorder that is characterized or can be diagnosed by increased androgen seen in blood tests, irregular periods, acne, excessive facial hair, and polycystic ovaries seen on ultrasound scan
Complications of PCOS
- Infertility: PCOS is a common cause of female infertility due to irregular or absent ovulation.
- Metabolic disorders: Women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia (abnormal blood lipid levels).
- Obesity: PCOS is often associated with weight gain and obesity, which can further exacerbate hormonal imbalances and increase the risk of other health problems.
- Cardiovascular disease: PCOS is linked to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.
- Endometrial cancer: Women with PCOS may have a higher risk of developing endometrial cancer due to irregular menstrual cycles and unopposed estrogen exposure.
- Psychological effects: PCOS can negatively impact a woman’s mental health, leading to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and decreased quality of life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does PCOS Give You Really Bad Sugar Cravings
It’s because your cells have become resistant to insulin. In essence, they are hungry, and they send signals to the brain telling it that they are hungry.
Your brain then does everything possible to get sugar into your system. Hence the constant sugar cravings. Sometimes you may notice that some women with PCOS have a really bad sweet tooth or always eating snacks like chocolate etc
Can Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Cause Pain During Intercourse?
Painful sex is called dyspareunia. It can be caused by PCOS. But other conditions like endometriosis, ovarian cysts, etc. also cause painful sex
Can you suddenly develop PCOS?
No, you cannot suddenly develop PCOS. PCOS is a chronic condition that is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is not something that you can catch or develop overnight.
The symptoms of PCOS can vary from woman to woman, but they often include irregular periods, infertility, weight gain, and excess hair growth. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Can Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Cause Hip Pain?
Yes, it can. In fact, a lesser-known symptom of PCOS is coccydynia. This is sometimes a numb pain in and around the small triangular bone at the very bottom of your spinal column, above the line that divides your bum.
Will my PCOS symptoms go away at menopause?
PCOS symptoms may improve or diminish with menopause, but they may not completely disappear. While menopause brings about a decrease in hormone production and menstrual irregularities, the underlying hormonal imbalances in PCOS may persist. Symptoms such as hirsutism (excessive hair growth), acne, and weight management challenges may continue in some women.
How Does Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Cause Diabetes?
Women with PCOS frequently have insulin resistance, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes even if their bodies can produce insulin. Their bodies produce insulin but the cells are not using it.
Can You Get Pregnant With PCOS.?
It may require continuous trial and error. But it is definitely possible to get pregnant with PCOS
Can PCOS Cysts Rupture?
Yes, they can. In PCOS, multiple cysts grow at the external part of the ovaries. Any pressure can lead to the rupture of the cyst. Sometimes, sex, abdominal blunt trauma or injury, hormonal changes, sports, and pregnancy can cause a cyst to rupture.
Some Signs Of A Ruptured Cyst are
- Pain from mild to severe
- Stabbing pain at the point or area around the cyst
- Tenderness in the area where ovaries are situated
- Pain starts immediately after intercourse begins or during intercourse.
What Happens If PCOS Is Left Untreated?
If you have asymptomatic PCOS, you may not need treatment. But if symptoms manifest especially the frequent cramps, irregular periods, etc. and you leave it untreated. Well, good luck with that
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome And Menopause.
PCOS doesn’t go away with menopause, so you may continue to have symptoms. Women with PCOS tend to reach menopause earlier than those who don’t have it. However, since there is reduced to no estrogen production during menopause, PCOS symptoms may decrease.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome And Endometriosis.
PCOS is a problem caused by hormonal imbalance and endometriosis is a condition that is caused by abnormal cells growing outside of the uterus.
PCOS And Endometrial Cancer
The major reason PCOS increases the risk of endometrial cancer is the extended exposure of the endometrium to estrogen (also called estrogen dominance) when a woman does not ovulate. This prolonged exposure can cause endometrial hyperplasia (fast multiplication of endometrial cells) and may lead to endometrial cancer.
Can You Have Regular Periods With PCOS?
Yes, some women with PCOS can have regular periods. Sometimes your periods may even be too frequent or may be prolonged more than usual.
What Other Health problems is PCOS Linked to?
- Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes: PCOS increases the risk of developing insulin resistance, which can lead to elevated blood sugar levels and an increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Metabolic syndrome: PCOS is associated with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that include high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and increased abdominal fat, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Sleep apnea: Women with PCOS have a higher prevalence of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Obesity and hormonal imbalances contribute to this association.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): PCOS increases the risk of NAFLD, a condition where excess fat accumulates in the liver, potentially leading to liver inflammation and scarring.
- Mental health issues: PCOS is linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, possibly due to hormonal imbalances and the impact of symptoms on self-esteem and quality of life.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Without Cysts?
Yes, you can be diagnosed with PCOS without having cysts. But it is rare. Some say you only need 2 out of the 3 listed below to diagnose PCOS
- High levels of androgens in the blood
- Irregular periods
- Excessive facial hair (hirsutism)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome And Vitamin B12 Deficiency
In patients with PCOS, there is a marked decrease in Vitamin B12. This is indicative of obesity, insulin resistance, and homocysteine levels. Obese women with PCOS had even lower vitamin B12 levels than skinnier or average-sized women with Pcos
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome And Hypothyroidism
In addition to worsening PCOS symptoms—such as weight gain, irregular periods, and increased insulin resistance—worse, hypothyroidism can also produce symptoms that mimic PCOS. These include facial mooning, bradycardia, and goiters (an enlarged thyroid gland) (an abnormally slow heart rate).
Ovarian volume increases and cystic changes occur in primary hypothyroidism. Thyroid disorders are more common in women that suffer from PCOS than in those that don’t. Treating hypothyroidism with daily iodine intake can help reduce PCOS symptoms.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome And Endometrial Polyps
In a study conducted on 417 premenopausal women over a period of 30 months. The results showed that premenopausal women with PCOS and those with 2 or more polyps had an increased prevalence of polyp malignancy.
If you have PCOS and also develop endometrial polyps. The chances of the endometrial polyps becoming malignant (cancerous) becomes much higher.
PCOS Vs Other Ovarian Cysts
The biggest distinction between PCOS and ovarian cysts is that PCOS causes a serious hormonal imbalance, whereas ovarian cysts typically do not. The presence of several ovarian cysts in a woman is also possible even though the woman may not suffering from PCOS.
Most women will have a cyst at some point in their lives. some cysts are even functional cysts. This means that they naturally occur during a menstrual cycle and will naturally disappear on their own.
Living With A Partner That Has PCOS.
As a man or woman who is living with a partner who has PCOS, one of the things you have to develop is emotional intelligence. You have to know that these symptoms are not her fault. A listening ear and a patient heart can work wonders.
Body-shaming and derogatory name-calling will never help. PCOS is an invisible disease, only the person suffering from it knows how it really feels. There will be days she will wake up tired, and there will be days that depression and anxiety will be the order of the day. Due to the imbalance of estrogen production, she will have severe mood swings.
There will be a decrease in libido and abdominal weight gain which can lead to low self-esteem. When it comes to trying to conceive, we can only imagine the emotional anguish of finding it difficult to conceive.
Be the best partner she can have, PCOS is a bitter cycle, and most of the time she will be going through it alone.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome(PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance disorder, which is characterized by multiple symptoms. It may affect 5% to 10% of reproductive-aged women
I hope that this article has provided you with better knowledge of PCOS. The next article in this series will be about the best supplements to take for PCOS. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to speak with your doctor or to seek additional medical advice.
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