What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
PCOS is a disease caused by a hormonal imbalance that affects women and girls of childbearing age. Women with PCOS usually have at least two of the following three problems:
- Absence of ovulation, which causes irregular menstrual periods or absence of periods
- High levels of androgens (a type of hormone) or signs of high androgen levels, such as excess body or facial hair
- Cysts (sacs full of fluid) in one or both ovaries – “polycystic” literally means “with many cysts”
A number of women with confirmed cases of PCOS experience the first two problems mentioned above, including other symptoms, but there is an absence of cysts in their ovaries.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is undoubtedly the most common cause of anovulatory infertility, which means that infertility is linked to the absence of ovulation, the process in which the ovary releases a mature egg every month. A great number of women are unaware that they are sufferers of this syndrome until they start experiencing difficulty in conceiving.
PCOS is also capable of causing other issues, like hair growth in unwanted parts of the body, hair loss on the top of the head, presence of dark patches on the skin, excessive weight gain, as well as irregular menstruation.
Women with PCOS are also more at risk of having:
- Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes breathing pauses while a person is asleep
- Resistance to insulin
- Metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease and high blood pressure (cardiovascular disease)
- Mood disorders
- Endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer
Stay tuned for next week’s installment: The Causes and Symptoms of PCOS
This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not medical advice and should not be used to replace the advice of a trained physician. If you have any suspicion that the information in this article may apply to you, be sure to contact your doctor for more details!
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