When a patient is suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (often referred to as "PCOS"), her ovaries contain a large number of harmless cysts up to 8mm in size. In these situations, the sacs are unable to release an egg, meaning ovulation doesn't take place. Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common endocrine system disorder among women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid, called follicles, which are located in each ovary as seen during an ultrasound exam.
Polycystic ovary syndrome signs and symptoms often begin soon after a woman first begins having periods. They usually become apparent during your late teens or early twenties. In some cases, PCOS develops later during the reproductive years, for instance, in response to substantial weight gain. Every woman with PCOS may be affected a little differently and not all women with PCOS have all of the symptoms. Some of the symptoms that can occur in women with polycystic ovary syndrome are infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods; difficulty getting pregnant due to the irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate; excess hair growth; thinning hair and hair loss from the head; oily skin or acne and obesity. All of the symptoms can worsen with obesity.
Doctors don't know what causes polycystic ovary syndrome with certainty, but but it's thought to be related to abnormal hormone levels. The following factors may play a role:
- Excess insulin, which might also affect the ovaries by increasing androgen production. Consequently, it may interfere with the ovaries' ability to ovulate
- Low-grade inflammation
- Hormone imbalance, irrespective of the exact cause thereof (for example, raised levels of testosterone, raised levels of luteinising hormone (LH), low levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) or raised levels of prolactin)
The main risk factor for (PCOS) is a family history of it. The chances of having the syndrome are higher if other women in the family have it or have irregular periods or diabetes (due to the strong relationship between diabetes and PCOS). PCOS can be passed down from either your mother's or father's side. Apart from those two factors, other risk factors associated with PCOS are the following:
- 4 to 7 times higher risk of heart attacks
- High Blood Pressure or Hypertension
- High Cholesterol
- High Lipids
Even though the exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is unknown, an early diagnosis and proper treatment may reduce the risk of long-term complications, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If PCOS is left untreated, it will probably result in an increased risk of problems in later life, such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
Having polycystic ovary syndrome may make the following conditions more likely, especially if obesity also is a factor:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Cholesterol and lipid abnormalities, such as elevated triglycerides or low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome — a cluster of signs and symptoms that indicate a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis — a severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
- Sleep apnea
- Depression and anxiety
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer), caused by exposure to continuous high levels of estrogen
- Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
Unfortunately PCOS cannot be prevented.