Polycystic Ovary SyndromePolycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) develops in women of childbearing age who produce a higher-than-normal amount of androgens—a male sex hormone that most women have in small amounts. Many women with PCOS also develop non-cancerous cysts in their ovaries, although this isn’t always the case.
PCOS CausesPolycystic ovary syndrome is a complex disorder that isn’t fully understood. Some research links PCOS to high levels of insulin, which is the hormone that helps the body use sugar for energy. Other evidence suggests that low-grade inflammation, obesity and hereditary factors play a role in excess androgen levels and PCOS development.
The symptoms of polycystic ovary symptom can vary significantly from woman to woman. Some girls start experiencing symptoms when they get their first period, while others may not realize they have PCOS until they develop complications as an adult. When symptoms do present, they may involve:
- Irregular periods (some women may not have a period at all)
- Weight gain
- Hair growth on the face and body
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Dark patches of skin
PCOS can also cause complications in some women, including:
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Gestational diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Metabolic syndrome
- Premature delivery
- Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (severe liver inflammation)
- Endometrial cancer
A physician may diagnose a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome if she has two or more of the following:
- Irregular periods
- High levels of androgens
- Ovarian cysts
Blood tests to check hormone levels and an ultrasound to view images of the ovaries may be performed to confirm a PCOS diagnosis, along with an evaluation of symptoms such as skin changes and unusual hair growth.
The Women’s Institute at Tampa General Hospital helps patients with PCOS manage their symptoms and enjoy a better, healthier quality of life through evidenced-based therapies and comprehensive preventive care services. Each woman’s treatment plan will focus on issues that are important to her, such as fertility, weight loss or skincare. Many patients benefit from birth control pills that reduce androgen production and regulate the hormones associated with acne and unwanted hair growth. Progesterone therapy pills can also help regulate periods and control symptoms.