What is PCOS?

PCOS is a common hormonal disorder in women that affects the normal functioning of a woman’s ovaries. Severe hormonal imbalances cause the eggs to remain immature, shrink and turn into cysts inside the ovaries. The buildup of these cysts makes the initial hormonal imbalances worse and ultimately lead to infertility.

Causes of PCOS

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but is associated with a hormonal imbalance that causes the ovaries to overproduce male hormones such as testosterone.

Symptoms of PCOS

Symptoms of PCOS include absent or irregular menstrual periods, hair growth on the face, back or chest; severe acne; obesity, weight gain or difficulty losing weight; thinning of scalp hair or baldness.

Treatment for PCOS

There is no cure for PCOS; however, many advances have been made in treating PCOS related issues such as infertility.

PCOS is diagnosed in women who have two of the following three characteristics:

  1. Chronic anovulation (no release of egg from ovaries)
  2. Increased male hormone levels (determined by blood test or androgen testing) or an increase in hair in the middle of the body
  3. Polycystic appearing ovaries on ultrasound.

Studies suggest that some obese women experience a return of ovulation simply by losing weight. Ovulation induction may also be encouraged with Clomid or other hormones. Once ovulation occurs, women with PCOS may continue with either intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Because PCOS may lead to metabolic disorders like diabetes and heart disease later in life, it is critical that treatments address these issues to lower the woman’s risk. Diet, weight loss, exercise and the monitoring of insulin levels are all critical to the treatment of PCOS.