You are here
Learning More about PCOS
September is National PCOS Awareness Month, a time to bring awareness to a condition that impacts a woman's endocrine system and can cause infertility. There are several names for polycystic ovarian syndrome, including polycystic ovary disease, polycystic ovaries, Stein-Leventhal syndrome, or polyfollicular ovarian disease.
What Is PCOS?
Women who have PCOS usually have a normal uterus and fallopian tubes; however, their ovaries contain many small follicles or cysts. The eggs in these follicles don't grow normally. Women with PCOS rarely ovulate and are usually unable to conceive without reproductive assistance.
The cysts in the ovaries produce androgens. These hormones not only lead to an imbalance that affects a woman's ability to conceive, but they can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Who Does PCOS Affect?
PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age and is a leading cause of infertility. According to the Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health, between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age has PCOS. As many as 5 million women in the United States may be affected, and it can occur in girls as young as 11 years old.
Because they are not ovulating and releasing an egg each month it is common for women with PCOS to have irregular or missed periods.
What Causes PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is not fully understood, but it involves interactions between hormones produced by the brain, androgens produced by the ovaries and insulin. A woman's weight can also be a factor.
Symptoms of PCOS, including infertility, can be treated. Making lifestyle changes, especially nutritional and exercise habits, is a crucial part of treatment because insulin resistance is believed to play a key role in PCOS. Along with these lifestyle changes, treatment through assisted reproductive therapies can improve the chances of conception.
Watch these videos about PCOS: