Should you be worried about polycystic ovaries?
It is thought that around 20% of women in the UK have polycystic ovaries and while many of these women will never know they have the condition, it does affect some women.
What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is where ovulation may not take place because too many follicles are trying to develop at the same time.
As Mr Patrick Bose, Hormone Health Associate, explains: “Follicles are the sacs within the ovary where an egg develops. During a normal cycle one single follicle becomes the ‘dominant’ follicle and releases its egg.
“If you have PCOS, no single follicle becomes the dominant one, and too many follicles develop simultaneously. Therefore, ovulation may not take place, and a characteristic ‘polycystic’ pattern develops on ultrasound.”
Symptoms of PCOS
While many women can have few or no symptoms at all, other women can experience:
- Irregular periods
- Extra facial or body hair (known as hirsutism)
- Loss of head hair
- Weight increase or difficulty losing weight
- Oily skin
- Prone to acne
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
Causes of PCOS
While it’s not yet known what causes PCOS, you have an increased risk of developing it if it runs in the family.
PCOS is also related to higher levels of testosterone and insulin. While women naturally produce testosterone in small amounts, when the body produces higher levels it can cause symptoms of polycystic ovaries.
Likewise, high levels of insulin cause the body to produce more glucose which in turn triggers more insulin. This is known as insulin resistance. This can mean that you can struggle to lose weight, produce more testosterone, and suffer from other symptoms associated with PCOS.
Risks of PCOS
But if most women do not notice their symptoms or have mild symptoms, is PCOS something to be concerned about?
It is very difficult to diagnose PCOS because the symptoms can be caused by many other things but if you have irregular or no periods and increased facial hair, it is worth getting it checked out.
If you do have PCOS, then you are at a greater risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, womb cancer, depression, and mood swings.
Diagnosis and Treatment
It is sometimes difficult to diagnose PCOS because the symptoms can be caused by many other things but if you have irregular or no periods and increased facial hair, it is worth getting it
Due to the complexity of PCOS, you should see a specialist gynaecologist for diagnosis and treatment. While there is no cure for the condition, the long-term risks can be managed with diet, exercise, and hormone treatment.
Treatment plans can also help manage the symptoms of PCOS and help increase the chances of pregnancy.