What is PCOS?
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is the most common hormonal endocrine disorder found in women. 5-10% of women of childbearing age are affected by PCOS, with less than 50% of women diagnosed. This leaves millions of women undiagnosed. The condition currently affects up to 5 million women in the United States.
PCOS is a condition in which a woman’s levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of balance. This leads to the growth of ovarian cysts (benign masses on the ovaries). It is responsible for 70% of infertility issues in women who have difficulty ovulating. Post menopausal women can also suffer from PCOS.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Although the cause of PCOS is unknown, women with PCOS have high male hormone levels, which can lead to acne, extra facial and body hair, and irregular periods. Additionally, PCOS is the leading cause of hormonal infertility.
Typically, PCOS symptoms first appear in adolescence, normally around the start of menstruation. Occasionally, some women do not develop PCOS symptoms until their early to mid-20s. One of the most common symptoms of PCOS is irregular periods.
Other symptoms associated with PCOS are the heart disease risk factors of weight gain, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and diabetes. PCOS may also increase the risk of developing endometrial cancer.
Studies have shown that approximately 40% of patients with diabetes and/or glucose intolerance between the ages of 20-50 have PCOS.
In addition, some studies have found that if a mother has PCOS, there is a 50% chance that her daughter will have PCOS.
The good news is that early diagnosis and proper education can help women lower all these risk factors and live a happy, healthier life!