Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition affecting 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. It's characterised by a cluster of symptoms, including irregular periods, androgen excess (elevated male hormones), and the presence of multiple small cysts on the ovaries.

Features of PCOS

  • Irregular or Missed Periods: The ovaries might not release an egg every month (ovulate), leading to infrequent or absent periods.
  • Androgen Excess: Symptoms like excess hair growth (hirsutism), acne, male pattern baldness, and oily skin can occur due to elevated androgen levels.
  • Ovarian Cysts: Multiple small fluid-filled sacs develop on the ovaries, though they don't typically cause pain and aren't true cysts.
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Potential Symptoms

  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Insulin resistance or pre-diabetes/type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Mood swings and anxiety
  • Skin pigmentation

Causes and Diagnosis

The exact cause of PCOS remains unknown, although genetic and environmental factors likely play a role.

Diagnosis usually involves a combination of factors:

  • Medical history and symptom assessment
  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests to assess hormone levels and insulin resistance
  • Pelvic ultrasound to confirm the presence of ovarian cysts

Impact on Fertility

PCOS is a leading cause of female infertility, affecting about 70% of women with the condition.

This is primarily due to:

  • Ovulation irregularities: Infrequent or lack of ovulation makes it difficult to conceive naturally.
  • Egg quality: The hormonal imbalance can affect egg development and maturation, potentially impacting egg quality and viability.
  • Insulin resistance: High insulin levels can further disrupt ovulation and egg quality.

Conceiving with PCOS

Despite the challenges, many women with PCOS can get pregnant with various approaches:

  • Lifestyle modifications: Maintaining a healthy weight, adopting a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise can improve insulin sensitivity and potentially regulate ovulation.
  • Ovulation induction medications: These medications stimulate the ovaries to ovulate regularly, increasing the chances of conception.
  • Assisted reproductive technologies (ART): In some cases, fertility treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF) might be needed.
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Managing PCOS

Living with PCOS involves managing symptoms and addressing potential health risks. Here are some important aspects:

  • Regular check-ups: Consult your doctor for regular monitoring of PCOS and related conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly can improve symptoms and reduce long-term health risks.
  • Managing insulin resistance: If diagnosed with insulin resistance, follow the doctor's recommendations for diet, exercise, and medications to manage it.
  • Mental health support: Dealing with PCOS can be emotionally challenging. Seek professional help for managing stress, anxiety, and depression, if needed.

It's important to remember that PCOS is a manageable condition. With proper diagnosis, treatment, and self-care, women with PCOS can live fulfilling lives, manage their symptoms, and achieve their reproductive goals.

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