Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: What you should know

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a systemic illness, meaning it affects much more than the ovaries. Find out more about it. Click To Tweet

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a polygenic syndrome characterised by a hormonal imbalance involving, among other changes, ovary insufficiency. In general, this issue starts to exhibit symptoms from puberty, which is when significant menstrual and hormonal changes start to display.

This endocrine disorder increases the risk of suffering from infertility, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases – due to high levels of androgens, sleep apnoea and endometrial hyperplasia (thickening of the internal lining of the uterus) – resulting in an increased risk of endometrial cancer.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

This syndrome originates in uncontrolled functioning of the ovaries, adrenal glands, skin, fatty tissue and hypothalamic pituitary axis. However, its causes are still not entirely known, with some of its risk factors believed to possibly involve genetic problems, environmental and hormonal issues and an unhealthy lifestyle.

There are various symptoms that serve as alarm signals and lead to a medical consultation, so as to confirm whether or not this is a case of polycystic ovary syndrome.

These symptoms might include:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Excessive body hair (hirsutism)
  • Hair loss (above all in the temple region)
  • Acne
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Poor glucose metabolism (hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance)
  • Difficulty conceiving

How is PCOS diagnosed? 

Early diagnosis of this syndrome can help to avoid certain future complications. To reach this diagnosis, the doctor needs to examine and assess the disorder and take both clinical history and symptomatology into account.

Occasionally, to confirm the diagnosis, it might be necessary to perform blood tests to measure hormone levels, including thyroid function, and to proceed to a pelvic ultrasound.

For polycystic ovary syndrome to be confirmed, two of the following conditions must be present.

  • Oligomenorrhea (infrequent menstruation), amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) or anovulation (absence of ovulation)
  • Hyperandrogenism (excess of androgens)
  • Polycystic ovaries, detected through ultrasound
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: What you should know

Does Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affect pregnancy?

As already stated, polycystic ovary syndrome can often cause fertility issues. However, even when this does not occur and the patient manages to become pregnant, it should be noted that there is an increased risk of certain complications, namely:

  • Miscarriages
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Preterm birth
  • Foetal macrosomia
  • Stillbirth
  • Endometrial hyperplasia

How is PCOS treated and prevent?

It is important to emphasise that there is no cure for this syndrome. Therefore, the therapies associated with this illness essentially aim to ease the symptoms presented by each patient and depending on the possible cause.

Some of the recommendation made by the doctor might include:

  • Practising regular physical exercise
  • A personalised and tailored diet
  • Following a contraceptive pill prescription 
  • Taking oral hypoglycaemic agents or other medicines focused on the metabolism
  • Taking medications that control testosterone levels
  • Taking menstruation and ovulation stimulants
  • Psychotherapy, to manage the stress and anxiety typical with this syndrome

Since the causes of this syndrome are not yet entirely clear, preventing this illness is not possible. However, it is possible to prevent this problem from triggering other complications. To do so, it is vital to maintain  a healthy diet and daily physical exercise.


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