What is PCOS?
PCOS, otherwise known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition characterized by ovulatory dysfunction or irregular periods in combination with high levels of androgen in the body. Androgen is a hormone produced by the ovaries that aids in the release of an egg each month at the time of ovulation. Insulin resistance also plays a role in the diagnosis of PCOS. Insulin helps moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into metabolic cells for energy and if glucose is not regulated, elevated blood sugar levels may result and consistently high levels of blood-sugar may result in weight gain. Although PCOS has no precise cause, there are signs and symptoms to look for that suggest a potential necessity for evaluation.
Some signs and symptoms include:
- Irregular periods
- Multiple ovarian cysts to one or both ovaries
- Hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the face, chest, abdomen, and upper thighs)
- Acne past age of puberty
- Oily skin
How do I know if I have PCOS?
Women who are suspected to have PCOS typically have a pelvic ultrasound to visualize the ovaries to see if multiple cysts are present. Bloodwork is another viable means to detect if a woman has PCOS. The bloodwork can reveal if a woman has high levels of certain hormones, such as androgens or testosterone, which contribute to the diagnosis of PCOS.
How can PCOS be treated?
There is no precise cure for PCOS. However, there a variety of ways to manage the side effects of it. Women who experience irregular periods due to the condition may wish to consider being started on an oral contraceptive pill to regulate their menstrual cycles. The birth control pill will also supply a supplemental dose of estrogen and progestin that most women with PCOS are lacking. The regulation of a menstrual cycle and release of an egg each month will also help regulate the amount of androgen in a woman with PCOS, potentially decreasing any acne, hirsutism, or oily skin that may be present.
For women who do not want to take birth control pills for health reasons or longings to become pregnant, the option of Metformin is also available to women with PCOS. Metformin is a commonly used prescription drug for diabetes. However, when taken in small doses, it can help regulate insulin levels causing weight loss and indirectly regulate menstrual cycles due to that weight loss.
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