Most women have never heard of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), yet it is the leading cause of infertility in women and affects about one in 10 women in the United States.
PCOS is a widespread hormonal disorder found in premenopausal women. It can be treated, so it is important for women experiencing the symptoms of PCOS to see their health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.
Obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Tracie Traver, who is on the active medical staff of Blount Memorial Hospital, says that common symptoms of PCOS include irregular or missed menstrual periods, infertility, increased hair growth, obesity and ovarian cysts. "PCOS is caused by an excess production of a hormone class called androgens. Androgens are male hormones that all women produce, but that women with PCOS produce in excess.
There is nothing that can be done to prevent PCOS or lower the risk, although weight control may have a positive effect on it."Women with signs of androgen excess who are not ovulating are considered to have PCOS. "Sometimes lab tests are ordered to be sure there is nothing else causing these symptoms," Traver adds. "An ultrasound may be done to look for small cysts on the ovaries, however, there are some patients who have the classic presentation for PCOS, yet the ultrasound doesn't show these cysts."Traver explains that treatment of PCOS helps control symptoms and can help prevent endometrial cancer, diabetes and heart disease. "Daily exercise of at least 30 minutes can help women with PCOS by improving insulin function as well as relieving other symptoms. Also, weight loss may lower insulin levels, which will help with restoring ovulation, and may slow new hair growth."
Medications used to treat PCOS include some medicines typically used by diabetics to help with insulin function. Birth control pills also may be used to control irregular cycles and lower endometrial cancer risk. Other medications are used to cause ovulation for women with fertility issues.
There also are medications available to control the hair growth.Traver recommends that women who are experiencing PCOS symptoms such as irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant and excess hair growth schedule an appointment with an obstetrician/gynecologist for diagnosis and treatment. "In severe cases, PCOS can lead to balding, lowering of the voice and bigger muscles," she adds. "Some women have a problem with their insulin levels or function, which leads to weight gain and difficulty losing weight. They also have an increased risk of endometrial cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease."If you would like to schedule an appointment with an obstetrician/gynecologist, call the Blount Memorial HEALTHLINE at 981-3983 for a free physician referral.