Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which the ovaries secrete abnormally high amounts of androgens (male hormones) that often cause problems with ovulation. Women with PCOS have enlarged ovaries which contain multiple, small cysts. PCOS is also called Stein-Leventhal syndrome.

Symptoms

PCOS can be completely asymptomatic. However, more often, the following symptoms are associated with PCOS:

  • Weight gain or obesity
  • Excessive hair and/or abnormal hair growth patterns
  • Irregular periods or complete absence of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Acne
  • Oily skin
  • Enlarged ovaries
Cause

PCOS is caused by the excessive secretion of androgens (a sex hormone). This may result in a persistent lack of ovulation (anovulation) or irregular ovulation (oligo-ovulation).

Treatment

Treatment depends on your symptoms and your goals for their management. Recent studies have shown insulin resistance to be a factor in many women with PCOS. In some cases, your healthcare provider may suggest a weight management program, including a reduced fat and carbohydrate diet, along with aerobic exercise. Your physician may also prescribe medications to manage acne or unwanted hair growth, correct menstrual problems that typically occur with PCOS, or to help achieve pregnancy if desired. You should consult with your doctor about what treatments will help manage your condition.

Some severe cases require surgery. The outer layer of the ovary can become thickened which may interfere with ovulation. Laser ovarian drilling works by burning small holes in enlarged follicles on the surface of the ovaries with the intention of stimulating ovulation by reducing levels of LH and androgens.


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