Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

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What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a common endocrine disorder affecting as many as 1 in 10 women of childbearing age, according to womenshealth.gov. PCOS is characterized by enlarged ovaries that contain follicles, or small collections of fluid, and it has been known to affect girls as young as 11 years old.

What Causes Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

While no one knows the exact cause of PCOS, doctors do know that the condition is caused by a hormonal imbalance. Factors such as heredity, excess weight, excess insulin, and inflammation can all play a role in causing the condition as well.

What are the Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

PCOS is typically characterized by infrequent menstrual periods, infertility and an increase in male hormone production, which can cause excess facial hair growth, weight gain, adult acne and even male pattern baldness. PCOS is also sometimes accompanied by oily skin, dandruff, skin tags, pelvic pain, depression and sleep apnea as well.

What Treatments are Are Available for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

If you are diagnosed with PCOS, your doctor will likely recommend that you eat a healthier diet (including fewer processed foods), that you exercise more and that you lose weight if you are overweight. These simple at-­home treatments can be effective in managing mild cases of PCOS. If your condition is more severe, your doctor may recommend certain medications, such as birth control pills, or surgery.

Health Risks Related to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

While missing periods and producing excess male hormones can be unpredictable, annoying and embarrassing, the health risks don't stop there. Women who have PCOS are also at a greater risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack and depression. Pregnant women who have PCOS are also at an increased risk for gestational diabetes, premature delivery and miscarriage.

If you are experiencing irregular periods, infertility, weight gain or excessive hair growth, PCOS may be to blame. Speak to your doctor for more information, a diagnosis and a treatment plan today.