PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome, a common condition in adolescent and adult women. PCOS occurs when there is a hormonal imbalance. In addition to estrogen (the main female hormone), women also produce a small amount of testosterone (the main male hormone). Girls and women with PCOS produce a little extra testosterone.
What causes PCOS?
Doctors do not know exactly what causes the syndrome. In most women, it’s probably a combination of factors, including the genetic factors that you inherit from your family. For example, often the mother or sisters of women with this syndrome also have it.
What are the signs and symptoms of PCOS?
- Signs and symptoms include: Irregular menstrual periods, which means having your period more than once a month or every few months, or never having it.
- Periods with much or little bleeding
- Unwanted growth of hair on the face, chest, back, hands, arms and legs or around the nipples
- Little hair
- Patches of dark and thick skin on the neck, armpits or between the breasts
- Weight problems
- Adolescents and women with the syndrome also have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
What is the medical test to detect PCOS?
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your health, medications and menstrual cycle. The doctor will also want to know if there is a family history of the syndrome (your mother, a sister or aunt). On the physical exam, the doctor will measure your blood pressure and determine your height and weight. Your doctor will also examine your hairiness and look for patches of dark skin.
The doctor may order blood tests of hormone levels, cholesterol or glucose (sugar) in the blood. Sometimes doctors do a pelvic exam or ask for ultrasound exams (with pictures) of the ovaries and uterus. This type of test can show if you have ovarian cysts, which are bubbles filled with fluid inside or outside the ovaries. Your doctor will make sure that there are no other causes of irregular periods or alterations in the hormonal level.
What is the treatment for PCOS?
Treatments include one or more of the following:
Changes in your lifestyle such as drinking less sugary drinks and high-calorie desserts to help control your weight, exercise every day and avoid smoking.
Consultations with a registered dietitian to help her select healthy foods and lose weight.
Medicines that contain the female hormones estrogen and progesterone (or only progesterone), such as birth control pills, vaginal ring or skin patch; medicines that help your body use insulin better, such as metformin (for prediabetes or diabetes), or acne medication
Treatment for unwanted facial and body hair, such as bleach, wax, medications, shaving, electrolysis or laser treatments
Will the syndrome affect the possibility of having a baby in the future?
There is a possibility that the syndrome makes it difficult to have a baby. When the time comes, your doctor can help you with fertility problems.
What can I do to cope with the syndrome?
The first step is to consult with a doctor who knows about PCOS. Choose a doctor who is specialized in hormonal problems (endocrinologist) or a doctor who is specialized in women’s health (gynecologist or healer). Remember that the earlier you get help to treat the syndrome, the lower the risk of having health problems related to PCOS, such as diabetes.
Your doctor can help you find a way to feel better about your appearance. For example, you can ask the doctor about the best way to remove facial hair. If you feel depressed or worried, ask your parents or doctor who can receive therapy. You can also use a support group to talk with other women with the syndrome. It is more courageous to receive therapy than to suffer in silence.