Pittsburgh, PA (PressExposure) February 15, 2007 -- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal problem in women. It is also a metabolic disorder that affects several body systems and can cause significant long-term health consequences. PCOS is often characterized by enlarged ovaries, with multiple small painless cysts or follicles that form in the ovary. Two other key features of PCOS are production of excess androgens (male sex hormones) and anovulation (the failure to ovulate properly), which makes PCOS the leading cause of infertility.
The symptoms of PCOS can be not only physically debilitating, but also emotionally and psychologically wrenching. While no two women may have the same symptoms of POCS, they are likely to include any or all of the following: Infertility, Irregular or absent periods, Excess hair growth on face and body, Male-Pattern hair thinning, Acne, Obesity and Lipid Abnormalities
While these symptoms easily help identify a problem, the cause of PCOS is not yet fully understood. It is thought that there are several causes, which could explain why different women have such varying symptoms to varying degrees of severity. This could also explain why less than have of those estimated to have PCOS, actually know they have it and have delays in getting a diagnosis.
Many physicians often misdiagnose PCOS based on the fact that they look at the symptoms individually, rather than as a complete picture. Furthermore, since many of the symptoms involve a woman's reproductive system, PCOS is often mistaken for a gynecological disorder. It is, however, a disorder of the endocrine system, involving hormones and hormone production
Finding the proper PCOS diagnosis requires obtaining blood samples for a variety of hormones, including those produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, pituitary gland and thyroid gland. A full physical examination and screening for cholesterol, triglyceride, glucose and insulin should also be part of a complete evaluation.
The mystery has to be solved, due to the fact that PCOS can be associated with a number of serious medical conditions, frequently associated with decreased sensitivity to insulin (i.e., insulin resistance), which in turn may lead to an increased risk of adult on-set diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. PCOS can also be associated with uterine and endometrial cancer. If left untreated, PCOS can lead to serious medical complications such as endometrial cancer and hysterectomy of the ovaries and uterus. PCOS affects the glucose levels of the body causing Insulin Resistance, a serious pre-diabetic condition. PCOS increases a woman's risk of heart attack and stroke because it increases cholesterol and blood pressure. PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women. If causes Endometriosis, cysts, and early Ovarian failure
The other difficulty in solving the PCOS mystery is there is often a stigma attached to many of the symptoms of PCOS, which may inhibit a woman from discussing various symptoms with her doctor such as facial and body hair, infertility and obesity. Some women may even suffer from depression as a result of dealing with these symptoms. Therefore, Public information and awareness about the symptoms and the serious nature of the disorder are crucial to identifying women in need of treatment.
Unfortunately, at the present time doctors can only treat the individual symptoms of women with PCOS, rather than the entire syndrome. Once diagnosed, in most patients it can be managed effectively to help patients lead healthier and more satisfying lifestyles. In the meantime, research continues to determine the cause and look for new and better treatments for PCOS.