Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs due to hormonal imbalance in the childbearing age (15 to 44).  Production of male hormone androgen increases during PCOS. It becomes difficult for a woman to conceive if she is suffering with PCOS.  Due to increased male hormone in blood, coarse hairs grow on the face and body and even male pattern hair loss. PCOS is one of the risk factors for developing diabetes and heart diseases in the later years.

PCOS can remain undetected for years in many women.  PCOS affects the production of hormones in the ovaries.  Ovaries produce oestrogen and progesterone in a balanced measure to keep the menstrual cycle regular.  Any imbalance in production of hormones results in irregular and abnormal menstrual periods.  The ovaries also produce small quantities of male hormones called androgens.

The three main features of PCOS are,

  • Ovarian cysts
  • Increased level of male hormone in blood
  • Irregular or missed periods
What are the Causes?

The cause of PCOS is unknown.  It is believed that increased level of male hormone androgen disrupts the hormonal balance in the ovaries resulting in immature eggs.  Genetic makeup, insulin resistance and inflammation are all thought to be associated with increased androgen production.

Women with family history of PCOS are more prone to suffer from it.  More than two-thirds of women with PCOS suffer from insulin resistance.  Insulin is produced by pancreas and regulates the level of sugar in blood.  Resistance to insulin triggers increased production of insulin.  Excess insulin triggers excess production of male hormone.

The level of inflammation is high in women who have PCOS. High level of inflammation is linked to high male hormone level in blood.

What are the Symptoms?

PCOS is usually suspected when a woman has difficulty getting pregnant or they have become overweight.  Irregular and heavy periods, acne, male pattern hair growth on face and body, male pattern hair loss, weight gain, etc are common symptoms of PCOS.

What tests will be required for diagnosis?

PCOS is confirmed in women having at least two out of the three signs of PCOS, they are increased level of androgen in blood, irregular periods and ovarian cysts.  All these signs are confirmed through pelvic examination, blood tests and ultrasound scan.

What are the treatment options available?

Treatment for PCOS includes birth control pills and diabetes medication.  Diet and exercise can help lose weight and improve symptoms of PCOS.

Women suffering with infertility due to PCOS benefit from Clomiphene and surgery.  Ovarian drilling is once such procedure where in minute holes are made in the ovary using a laser or a heated needle to restore ovulation.