What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a common disorder of the endocrine system among women of reproductive age. PCOS often causes enlarged ovaries that contain follicles or small collections of fluid.
Some of the symptoms of PCOS can include prolonged or infrequent menstrual periods, acne, excess hair growth, and obesity. Infrequent or absent menstruation in teens is cause for suspicion of PCOS. While the cause of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is not clearly known, early diagnosis and treatment coupled with weight loss can reduce the risk of long-term complications, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
What are Some Symptoms of PCOS?
PCOS symptoms often begin soon after a woman’s first period but, in some cases, can develop late into reproductive years. Doctors look for at least two of the following symptoms to diagnose PCOS:
- Irregular periods - The most common characteristic of PCOS, examples of this symptom include menstrual intervals longer than 35 days, prolonged periods, and fewer than eight menstrual cycles a year.
- Excess androgen - Elevated levels of androgens or male hormones can result in physical signs such as severe adolescent acne or adult acne, male-pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia), and excess facial and body hair (hirsutism).
- Polycystic ovaries - Polycystic ovaries become enlarged and contain numerous small fluid-filled sacs surrounding the eggs.
What Complications can be Caused by PCOS?
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cholesterol and lipid abnormalities, such as elevated triglycerides or low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis — a severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
- Metabolic syndrome — a cluster of signs and symptoms that indicate a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Sleep apnea
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Depression and anxiety
- Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer), caused by exposure to high levels of estrogen.