PCOS is an endocrine disorder that can affect up to 15-20% of women. PCOS affects women of all different ethnic groups. It’s essential a hormonal imbalance disorder.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but these are some of the common symptoms seen in those diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Weight gain, especially around the waist
- Insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Hirsuitism (unwanted, coarse hair growth in areas like upper lip, chin, chest, abdomen, back)
- Thinning hair
- Infertility or repeated miscarriages
- Irregular periods and/or heavy periods
- Acne, oily skin, dandruff, darkened patches of skin
- Pelvic pain
- Sleep apnea
Causes The exact cause of PCOS isn’t known, but there are several factors that seem to contribute to the development of PCOS:
- Genetics. If your mother or sister have a history of PCOS, you’re more likely to have it as well.
- Low grade chronic inflammation in the body
- Hormonal Imbalance:
- Insulin: Insulin is a hormone that your pancreas produces. Insulin helps convert glucose to energy for your cells. When you have insulin resistance, your cells don’t use insulin properly and therefore the pancrease secretes more insulin. Excess insulin results in overproduction of androgens.
- Androgens are a male sex hormone that women also produce. When there are higher than normal levels of androgen in women, it causes acne, excessive hair growth, weight gain and can disrupt proper development and release of eggs.
- Elevated levels of the following hormones: LH, DHEA, and testosterone
- Testosterone & DHEA-S: Both may be elevated with PCOS. Oral contraceptives will lower testosterone levels. An accurate measure would require being off oral contraceptives for 3 months. Some women will have symptoms related to elevated levels of testosterone such as hirsuitism or thinning of the scalp, but their testosterone levels may still come back normal.
- FSH & LH: FSH stands for follicle stimulating hormone and LH stands for luteinizing hormone. FSH is responsible for stimulating the ovaries to produce eggs and LH is responsible for triggering ovulation. In women with PCOS, the ratio of FSH to LH is 2:1 or greater.
- Rule-out tests for thyroid dysfunction
- Pelvic ultrasound: This may be done to see if there are any cysts or if there are enlarged ovaries. However, many women with PCOS may not have any cysts.
- Glucose Tolerance Test: A GTT may be done to diagnose insulin resistance, prediabetes, or type II diabetes. These diagnoses are not uncommon in women with PCOS.
- Cholesterol: Because PCOS can cause metabolic problems for women, your doctor will likely want to check your cholesterol levels.
Treatment of PCOS. Click on each bullet point below for more in-depth information on medications and natural ways to manage PCOS.
- Nutrition, supplements, and diet therapy for PCOS
- Exercise for PCOS