Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition in which a woman’s levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of balance. This leads to the growth of ovarian cysts (benign masses on the ovaries). PCOS can cause problems with women’s menstrual cycle, fertility, cardiac function, and appearance. The symptoms include:
• excess hair on the face, chest, stomach, thumbs, or toes
• decrease in breast size
• deeper voice
• thin hair
Other symptoms include:
• weight gain
• pelvic pain
• anxiety or depression
HOW IS POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME DIAGNOSED?
There is no definitive test for PCOS. To make a diagnosis, your gynecologist will review your medical history and symptoms and perform tests to rule out other possible conditions. Your doctor will perform a physical and pelvic examination to look for signs of PCOS, such as swollen ovaries or a swollen clitoris.
Blood tests to measure hormone levels are typically ordered, as well as:
• thyroid function tests to determine how much of the thyroid hormone your body produces
• fasting glucose tests to measure your blood sugar levels
• lipid level tests to assess the amount of cholesterol in your blood
• A vaginal ultrasound allows your gynecologist to create real time images of your reproductive organs. A pelvic laparoscopy is a surgical procedure in which your doctor makes a small incision in your abdomen and inserts a tiny camera to check for growths on your ovaries. If growths are present, your doctor may take a small tissue sample (biopsy) for further examination.
HOW IS POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME TREATED?
Treatment for PCOS is not curative. Treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and managing the condition to prevent complications. The treatment will vary from woman to woman, depending on specific symptoms. A healthy diet and regular exercise is recommended for all women with PCOS, particularly those who are overweight. This can help to regulate your menstrual cycle and lower your blood glucose levels.
Surgery may be recommended for some women with PCOS. Ovarian drilling is a procedure in which your doctor punctures your ovary with a small needle that carries an electric current, in order to destroy part of the ovary. This is a short-term solution that can promote ovulation and reduce male hormone levels.
DID YOU KNOW?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age suffers from PCOS. The condition currently affects up to 5 million women in the United States.