Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. One in ten women in the UK are affected by PCOS.
The 3 main features of PCOS are:
- irregular periods – which means your ovaries do not regularly release eggs (ovulation)
- excess androgen – high levels of “male” hormones in your body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair
- polycystic ovaries – your ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs (but despite the name, you do not actually have cysts if you have PCOS)
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it often runs in families. It’s related to abnormal hormone levels in the body, including high levels of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls sugar levels in the body. Many women with PCOS are resistant to the action of insulin in their body and produce higher levels of insulin to overcome this. This contributes to the increased production and activity of hormones like testosterone.
Being overweight or obese also increases the amount of insulin your body produces.
If you have signs and symptoms of PCOS, they’ll usually become apparent during your late teens or early 20s.
They can include:
- irregular periods or no periods at all
- difficulty getting pregnant as a result of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate
- excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
- weight gain
- thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- oily skin or acne
PCOS is also associated with an increased risk of developing health problems in later life, such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
There’s no cure for PCOS, but the symptoms can be treated. Speak to a GP if you think you may have the condition. If you have PCOS and you’re overweight, losing weight and eating a healthy, balanced diet can make some symptoms better.
Medicines are also available to treat symptoms such as excessive hair growth, irregular periods and fertility problems. If fertility medicines are not effective, a simple surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) may be recommended. This involves using heat or a laser to destroy the tissue in the ovaries that’s producing androgens, such as testosterone.
With treatment, most women with PCOS are able to get pregnant.
If you are struggling with any of these symptoms, we would always recommend discussing your concerns with a GP who will be able to advise the best next steps for you.
At Pall Mall we offer same and next day private appointments with GPs who can refer you to one of our consultant gynaecologists. To book an appointment visit this page or call us on 0161 3940310.