Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), also called hyperandrogenic anovulation (HA), is a condition in which a woman’s levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of balance. PCOS can cause problems with a woman’s menstrual cycle, fertility, cardiac function, and appearance. Women with PCOS may have enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid called follicles located in each ovary.

Infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, excess hair growth, acne, and obesity can all occur in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. In adolescents, infrequent or absent menstruation may raise suspicion for the condition.  The exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is not known.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age suffers from PCOS.

 Causes of PCOS

While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, we believe that hormonal imbalances and genetics play a role. Women are more likely to develop PCOS if their mother or sister also has the condition.  Overproduction of the hormone androgen may be another contributing factor. Androgen is a male sex hormone that women’s bodies also produce. Women with PCOS often produce higher-than-normal levels of androgen. This can affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation. Excess insulin, a hormone that helps convert sugars and starches into energy, may cause high androgen levels.

Symptoms of PCOS

Symptoms of PCOS typically start soon after a woman begins to menstruate. The type and severity of symptoms varies from person to person. The most common characteristic of PCOS is irregular menstrual periods.  Because PCOS is marked by a decrease in female sex hormones, this condition may cause women to develop certain male characteristics, such as:  excess hair on body, decrease in breast size, deeper voice, thin hair and other symptoms may include infertility, weight gain, pelvic pain and anxiety

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