What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?It is a condition where a hormonal imbalance leads to enlargement of the ovaries and can cause changes in the menstrual cycle, skin and other problems PCOS symptoms can develop gradually over time, often to the confusion of sufferers. Often, the hormone changes that lead to PCOS begin in young adulthood, but sometimes are only evident after a significant weight gain.What are the symptoms of PCOS?
- Few or no menstrual periods (amenorrhoea, oligomenorrhoea)
- Heavy, irregular vaginal bleeding
- Hair loss from the scalp and hair growth (hirsutism) on the face, chest, back, stomach, thumbs, or toes
- Hyperandrogenism (high androgen levels) – resulting in hirsuitism and/or oily skin/acne
- Depression or mood swings
- Weight gain or upper body obesity (more around the abdomen than the hips)
- Inability to become pregnant (infertility, generally as a result of anovulation)
- Insulin resistance
- Repeat miscarriages
- Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair (alopecia)
PCOS increases the risk for the following conditions to occur:
- Endometrial hyperplasia and cancer of the endometrium (uterine lining);
- Insulin Resistance/Type II Diabetes;
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure);
- Depression and or Anxiety;
- Disorders of lipid metabolism;
- Cardiovascular Disease;
- Acanthosis Nigricans (Patches of darkened skin);
- Weight Gain;
- Autoimmune thyroiditis
First described in 1935 by Stein and Leventhal in the United States, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS ) affects 5-10% of women aged 12-45 years old. It was first known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome and at the time was considered to be a condition of anovulation (no ovulation) and infertility and associated with amenorrhoea (no menses) or oligomenorrhoea (very irregular menses), hirsutism, hypertension and obesity. It has been thought for many years that only those women who had all of the symptoms had the condition, however it is now known that PCOS is more prevalent than previously believed and it can occur in women who are not obese or hypertensive.The symptoms are vague and as a result a diagnosis could take years before it is made.
“Of course, I want to get pregnant, but I want to know what’s wrong with me first? Disappointed again…I found myself frustrated as I left the doctor’s office with my unread charting in one hand and a prescription for Clomid in the other.”
An ultrasound scan will show the presence of cysts in the ovaries. The classical sign is that of the Follicles (cysts) all lined up in the periphery of the ovary, which when seen by Ultrasound Scan gives the appearance of a “string of pearls”. However, it may just be numerous cysts that are seen. Also women may have multiple cysts in the ovary and be asymptomatic.
NaProTechnology treatment of PCOS is tailored to the individual woman, it will depend on whether she and her husband are trying to conceive. For couples with infertility, treatments to stimulate ovulation are used with close monitoring by tracking the cycle and hormonal profiling through NaproTechnology. Read Maria & Michael’s success story to see how we solved Maria’s years of undiagnosed PCOS and suffering.
As women with PCOS have long and irregular cycles and few or no ovulations, the endometrium is likely to be over stimulated and the concern is the risk of endometrical cancer. The endometrium is stimulated by the continuous oestrogen. For this reason Progesterone treatment at the appropriate time is used for these ladies and the cycles are therefore regulated. If surgical treatment is necessary the recommendation is an ovarian wedge resection. All the other symptoms listed above need to be addressed and treated appropriately.
In conclusion, PCOS is a multi-factorial condition which requires appropriate monitoring, diagnosis and treatment for women with this syndrome to restore their health and fertility.