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POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME

WHAT IS POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS)?

PCOS is a condition in which small follicles or cysts develop in the ovary. It is defined by irregular periods and an increase in the hormone testosterone. Some women may also notice acne, hair loss on the head and excess hair on the face (upper lip, chin, sideburn area). Because you may not ovulate regularly with PCOS, it may make becoming pregnant more difficult.

WHAT CAUSES PCOS?

The cause is not completely understood.

  • Normally, ovaries make follicles and during ovulation, 1 follicle is released as an egg.
  • Wtih PCOS, multiple small follicles or cysts form in the ovaries.  Hormones become out of balance and ovulation does not occur every month, the way it is supposed to.  High levels of certain hormones such as LH (luteinizing hormone) may increase levels of male hormones called androgens (testosterone, androstenedione). This leads to excess hair growth and acne.Pain may be either sharp or dull and may come and go

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS SYMPTOMS OF PCOS?

  • Absent, irregular or infrequent menstrual periods (sometimes fewer than 6-8 periods in a year)
  • Increased body hair growth (upper lip, chin, chest, arms, abdomen)
  • Scalp hair loss
  • Acne/ oily skin
  • Difficulty becoming pregnant
  • Gradual weight gain and obesity is common in over half of women with PCOS
  • Some women develop pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes due to insulin resistance (your body cannot control its blood sugar levels)
  • Multiple small cysts on ovaries

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should see your doctor. PCOS may have long-term consequences such as infertility, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, and endometrial cancer if left untreated.

HOW IS PCOS DIAGNOSED?

Diagnosis of PCOS includes a combination of symptoms present, blood tests and physical exam results

  • Blood tests usually test for levels of glucose, cholesterol and hormones such as prolactin, thyroid hormones, and FSH
  • A pregnancy test may also be done
  • A pelvic ultrasound may be done to check for multiple ovarian cysts

In general women with PCOS must have 2 of the following: Irregular menstrual periods, evidence of high androgen levels, or polycystic ovaries on ultrasound.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR PCOS?

  • Weight loss- if you are overweight or obese, losing weight may improve symptoms.
  • Birth control pills- the most common treatment and helps improve symptoms
  • Anti-androgen medications- these block some of the hormones that cause PCOS symptoms
  • Progestin- this is a hormone that helps to regulate periods
  • Metformin- This is usually used to control blood sugars in diabetics but also makes periods more regular in some women with PCOS
  • Skin lotion or antibiotics for acne
  • Laser therapy or electrolysis to remove extra hair

IF I HAVE PCOS, CAN I BECOME PREGNANT?

Yes. It is possible to become pregnant with PCOS, however, you can improve the chances of becoming pregnant with the following:

  • Women who are obese or overweight should lose weight through diet and exercise. This helps bring normal ovulation back, which is important to get pregnant.
  • There are also medications to help induce ovulation. See your doctor for more information.

|    © 2014-2018 copyright Taraneh Shirazian, MD

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Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health

207 E 84th Street

New York, NY 10028

Phone: 646-754-3300

 

Email: info@wwcofny.com