Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), often referred to as the Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is a condition linked with the growth of multiple cysts that occur in the ovaries. With polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) the ovaries release an egg or ovum during each menstrual cycle into the uterus monthly. This is known as ovulation. The egg or ovum is produced inside a small swelling on the ovary itself known as the cyst or follicle just before it is due to be released. During menstruation many cysts or follicles begin to develop, but rarely does more than one grows mature enough to release the egg or ovum. The production of oestrogen is occurring in the ovaries which matures to become the dominant female hormone, tiny amounts of androgens are also produced which are the dominant male hormones known as testosterone.
During polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) there are countless cysts and follicles produced, but again rarely does one mature enough to release an egg or ovum so the absence of such eggs or ovums means no ovulation will take place and a depletion of the female oestrogen hormone means that higher levels of testosterone are produced causing hormonal unbalances.
The statistics for Polycystic ovarian syndrome(PCOS) in women in Britain alone is one in every ten will have this condition, but often this is a mild version of Polycystic ovarian syndrome and little other treatment except an ultrasound examination is necessary. Around 20% to 30% of these tested women are said to have polycystic ovarian syndrome, therefore meaning that polycystic ovarian syndrome is the main cause of failure to ovulate and infertility in pre menopausal women.
Signs and Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Light periods or frequently missed periods
- Difficulty conceiving
- Acne on face
- Redness of the skin particularly on the face
- Weight gain
- Hirsutism or excessive hair growth
- Tiredness and lethargy
These signs and symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are not always present together, in some cases women report one or two of these signs and symptoms and the severity of them can intensify with some women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Signs and symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) become more noticeable when you approach twenty years of age and the most common are the failure to conceive or menstrual complications.
Usually in conjunction with polycystic ovarian syndrome there are increased odds that you could be at risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol. All of which can lead to heart disease or strokes later during life due to increased hormone imbalances, obesity and a depletion of insulin. The insulin is produced and distributed from the pancreas to regulate the levels of blood sugars. The irregularity or absence of menstruation can mean that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are at an increased risk of developing endometrial carcinoma, which is cancer of the womb lining.
Treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome
Treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome is far more effective when weight loss has taken place as obesity is a contributing factor to the lack of insulin and increased levels of hormones.
The levels of insulin are reduced with weight loss, therefore causing a decrease in the testosterone hormone levels being produced as well as increasing chances of ovulation. Improvement can also be noticed with reduced acne, redness and excessive hair growth being the visible effects. Fertility and menstrual complications can ease or subside.
There are drugs available that can block the masculine effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome, these are cyproterone acetate and spironolactone and these are anti-male hormone drugs.
The menstruation complications can be treated using hormone treatments such as the contraceptive pill. The progestogen-only pill can be used to encourage regular periods and in the long term reduce the risk of cancer of the endometrium in women.
Clomiphene is a drug used to induce ovulation for women who are trying to conceive but are failing to ovulate due to the effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome, although there are other options to induce ovulation such as surgical procedures and medicines that can be discussed with your doctor.
Metformin is a drug that can be used to reduce the levels of insulin in women with diabetes and has also shown in recent research that it can induce ovulation and conception in women struggling to conceive during polycystic ovarian syndrome.