Understanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Understanding polycystic syndrome (PCOS) is complicated. It affects your menstrual cycle and has some strange symptoms. Many women actually have PCOS, yet have never been diagnosed. It’s possible one of them could be you.

What Is PCOS

The first thing about understanding polycystic ovary syndrome is how a syndrome is defined. A syndrome is a group of symptoms that consistently occur together. In this case it affects a woman’s ovaries and ovulation. PCOS is a hormonal problem women develop during their childbearing years. As high as 27% of women may have PCOS, but many don’t realize it.

A woman’s reproductive organs, or the ovaries, produce both estrogen and progesterone, which help to regulate the menstrual cycle. The ovaries also produce a small amount of male hormones known as androgens.

figure of women's reproductive system for PCOS awareness

There are three fundamental features of PCOS: cysts in the ovaries, a higher than normal amount of male hormones, and irregular or skipped periods.

When a woman has PCOS, she has multiple fluid filled sacs each with an immature egg, but they never mature enough to trigger ovulation. This lack of ovulation affects all the hormones causing fewer female ones and more male ones. The extra male hormones in turn disrupt the menstrual cycle if you have PCOS, and you get less periods than normal.

Symptoms Of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

There are many signs of PCOS including the following:

  • Irregular, infrequent, or prolonged periods is a main sign
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Extra male hormones can cause excess facial and body hair
  • Oily skin leading to severe breakouts on the face, chest, and upper back
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Weight gain —80% of women with PCOS are obese or overweight
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty getting pregnant

Other Complications And Risk Factors From PCOS

PCOS can lead to the development of metabolic syndrome, which consists of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high LDL or bad cholesterol, and low HDL or good cholesterol.

Metabolic syndrome increases the risk for diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

Other risk factors include sleep apnea, depression, and endometrial cancer.

If you suspect you may be suffering with PCOS, contact Virginia Women’s Health Associates at (703) 435-2555 for an evaluation at our Reston or Annandale, VA office to learn more about treatment options, along with lifestyle changes that can help.