What is PCOS? Understanding its Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Impact on Fertility

What is PCOS? Understanding its Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Impact on Fertility

Hormonal problems nowadays are more common in women, among other physical and emotional problems, in the past years. One of the most common is a ‘silent disorder’ widely known as PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. More and more women are inflicted with this condition next to other types of health problems. Approximately 20% of women who are at their childbearing age suffer from PCOS.

Although under-diagnosed for a long time, PCOS is now a condition that many people are starting to recognize and the impact it has on women’s fertility. More than 70 percent of women who have PCOS would usually suffer infertility, compared to the remaining women who didn’t. At the same time, PCOS is also linked to developing other long-term health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, mood disorders, and heart disease.


PCOS – What is it?

When a woman produces male hormones that are higher than normal, it becomes a condition that is called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. The imbalance of hormones in a woman causes a skip in menstruation and making it difficult for her to get pregnant. Not only that, PCOS can cause excessive growth of hair especially on the face and body, or even balding.

Women in recent years have tried to battle the condition of diabetes medication or birth control pills as they balance the hormones.

Having PCOS not only would affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant but also can increase the chances of developing other health problems. The problem in PCOS lies in the woman’s ovaries, as her reproductive organs produce male hormones called androgens.

A woman’s menstrual cycle occurs every month the ovaries release an egg to be fertilized by a sperm. This process is called ovulation. PCOS is considered as a cluster of symptoms that affects a woman’s ovulation cycle and her ovaries. The primary features include:

–    Skipped menstruation or irregular periods

–    Cysts that appear in the ovaries

–    Above normal levels of male hormones present

From the polycystic, it means that there are many tiny, sac that is filled with fluid present in a woman’s ovaries. The sacs are follicles that contain one immature egg. However, these eggs are not matured enough to activate ovulation.


What are the causes of PCOS?

The exact causes of PCOS are still yet to be discovered by doctors. Research suggests that the primary cause of PCOS is the high amounts of male hormones present in a woman’s ovaries making it difficult to produce eggs normally. Other causes of PCOS that are suggested includes:


  1. Genetics

There are also studies proving that PCOS is a condition that is passed on from one female family member to the next.


  1. Resistance to insulin

Women who have PCOS would usually accompany insulin resistance. Insulin is one of the hormones that specifically produced by the pancreas to help the body produce energy through the sugar. However, when insulin is not used by the cells, insulin demand increases. As a result, the pancreas produces more insulin, and this extra insulin causes the ovaries to create more male hormones.


  1. Overweight and inflammation

Having excess weight in women can also increase the risk of PCOS. Not only that, it increases inflammation in the body. When there is an overload of inflammation, higher levels of androgen is produced.


What are the common symptoms that indicate PCOS?

Generally, symptoms of PCOS in women would start when they would have their first period. However, other women can also discover that they have the condition when they start gaining a lot of weight or are having difficulty getting pregnant.

The symptoms that are common in PCOS include:


–    Irregular menstruation

When a woman does not release eggs normally, ovulation does not occur. As a result, the uterine lining does not shed, so the woman does not get her period. It is reported that women with PCOS get less than ten periods in a year.


–    Excessive hair growth

A condition is known as hirsutism, women with PCOS would usually have an excess growth of hair. The hairs would commonly appear on the face, back, belly and chest.


–    Heavy bleeding

Since menstruation is irregular for a woman with PCOS, the uterine lining takes a longer time to build up. As a result, a woman’s period becomes heavier than usual.


–    Unexplained weight gain

When a woman becomes abnormally overweight, it is one of the clear signs of PCOS.


–    Frequent acne breakouts

Too much male hormones can usually cause the skin to become oily. As a result, acne breakouts become more frequent for women with PCOS.


–    Skin darkening

Another clear sign of PCOS is when the skin would develop dark creases or patches seen mostly on the neck, under the breasts, or in the groin area.


–    Balding

Women with PCOS would usually experience their hair getting thinner and falling out more often.


–    Frequent headaches

The abnormal hormone changes in women with PCOS can also cause headaches.


How does PCOS affect a person?

There are several ways PCOS can affect a person’s body. One of the most common impacts is a woman’s inability to get pregnant. It can also lead to high or low blood pressure due to metabolic syndrome which can eventually cause diabetes, stroke, or heart disease. PCOS can also affect a person’s sleep pattern and can cause sleep apnea. Other ways PCOS can impact a person is that it can also increase the risk of depression and anxiety.


How to treat PCOS?

Modern medicine has already come up with various conventional treatments to help treat PCOS. However, women are still choosing to take birth control pills to improve the symptoms. Others would use diabetes prescriptions like metformin to regulate insulin levels. There are also fertility drugs that doctors prescribe for women who are especially wanting to get pregnant. Surgery in the ovaries is also another option for women to help restore ovulation cycles.

However, there are also natural treatments to help reduce symptoms of PCOS. This includes a healthy diet, regular exercise and also an overall change in lifestyle habits.

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