What is PCOS and its Symptoms?

What is PCOS and its Symptoms?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. It affects the ovaries and can lead to an imbalance in hormone levels, particularly increased levels of androgens (male hormones). The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but genetics and insulin resistance are believed to play a significant role. Symptoms of PCOS can vary and may include:

  • Irregular Menstrual Periods: Menstrual cycles may be longer than 35 days, shorter than 21 days, or irregular, making it difficult to predict when the next period will occur.
  • Excess Androgen Levels: Elevated levels of androgens can cause physical signs such as hirsutism (excess hair growth on the face, chest, back, or buttocks), acne, or male-pattern baldness.
  • Polycystic Ovaries: Enlarged ovaries with small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) on the outer edges as seen on an ultrasound.
  • Anovulation: Ovulation may not occur regularly, leading to difficulty in conceiving or infertility.
  • Weight Gain: Difficulty losing weight or unexplained weight gain, often with increased fat around the waist.
  • Insulin Resistance: Difficulty using insulin effectively, which can result in high insulin levels and may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Skin Changes: Darkening of skin in areas such as the neck creases, groin, or under the breasts (acanthosis nigricans).
  • Thinning Hair on the Scalp: Hair thinning or hair loss, similar to male-pattern baldness.
  • Fatigue: Persistent fatigue or low energy levels.
  • Mood Changes: Mood swings, anxiety, or depression.
  • Pelvic Pain: Pelvic pain may occur due to the presence of cysts on the ovaries.
  • Sleep Problems: Sleep apnea or other sleep disturbances.
  • Chronic Pelvic Pain: Some women experience chronic, dull pelvic pain not related to their menstrual cycle.

It’s important to note that not all individuals with PCOS will experience all of these symptoms. Diagnosis involves a thorough evaluation of medical history, physical examination, blood tests, and imaging (e.g., ultrasound). Management typically includes lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), medication to regulate menstrual cycles or control symptoms, and fertility treatments if needed. A multidisciplinary approach involving endocrinologists, gynecologists, dietitians, and mental health professionals may be utilized to provide comprehensive care for individuals with PCOS.

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