Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder in women that are of reproductive age (the time from when periods start through to menopause). It affects roughly 10% of women, and the imbalance of male-type hormones are responsible for the symptoms of PCOS. People of all body types can have PCOS.
The cause of PCOS is unknown however genetics and family history have important roles. The symptoms of PCOS include excess hair growth on the face, scalp hair loss, acne, irregular or infrequent periods, weight gain, difficulties with fertility and increased anxiety and depression. Not every woman with PCOS will have every symptom, and each woman will be individual in her experience. It is thought that increased levels of insulin in the body cause the ovaries to work differently, which then produce excessive levels of male-type hormones (androgens) that cause many of the symptoms of PCOS. If the hormone levels can be controlled, the ovaries often function normally, and symptoms improve.
PCOS can be a complex condition to identify because there are numerous symptoms, and you don’t have to have all of them to be diagnosed with PCOS. A diagnosis of PCOS can be made when at least two of the following three criteria are met:
- Irregular periods or no periods
- Higher levels of androgens are present in the blood, shown by a blood test, OR symptoms such as excess facial or body hair growth, scalp hair loss, acne.
- Polycystic ovaries are visible on an ultrasound, meaning: more than 20 follicles (partly developed eggs) are visible on one or both ovaries or the size of one or both ovaries is increased (more than 10ml).
You don’t need an ultrasound if you have met the first two criteria.
A healthy lifestyle has been shown to be the most effective approach to managing PCOS successfully and reducing the severity of symptoms.