Polycystic Ovary Syndrome 101

How common is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition that affects 1 in 10 women. While the most common symptoms include weight gain, thinning hair and an irregular menstrual cycle, PCOS is one of the major causes of infertility among women. Estimates show that between 5 to 10 percent of all women in the United States have PCOS.

“It’s important for women to know that they did not cause this condition,” said Chinelo Echeazu, MD, with Memorial Physician Services, Women’s Healthcare. “While you cannot prevent or cure PCOS, there are treatment options to manage the symptoms.”

Here is what you should know:

  • Symptoms of PCOS: An irregular menstrual cycle, thinning hair, weight gain, hair on parts of the body where men usually have hair, acne, difficulty losing weight, darkening of the skin and skin tags.
  • Causes of PCOS: Hormonal imbalance caused by high levels of androgens (male hormones), high levels of insulin and genetic factors are believed to contribute to PCOS, but the exact cause is unknown.

“It may seem rare because many women who have PCOS do not discuss it openly,” continued Dr. Echeazu. “In other cases, a woman may be misdiagnosed or simply unaware that she has this condition.”

Common questions related to PCOS

Does weight affect PCOS? One common misperception of PCOS is that it only affects women who are overweight or obese, but it is actually the condition itself that contributes to weight gain. PCOS makes it difficult for the body to regulate insulin, which helps to convert sugar and starch from food into energy. High insulin levels result in an increase in the production of androgens which leads to weight gain—generally around the abdomen.

Can you become pregnant if you have PCOS? The hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS interferes with ovulation when eggs are grown and released from the ovaries. PCOS causes ovulation to occur infrequently and can make it difficult to get pregnant, but not impossible. Speak with your doctor about treatment options.

Is there a cure for PCOS?

You cannot prevent or cure PCOS. However, the symptoms of PCOS are treatable. Making lifestyle changes such as improving your diet and exercising can help along with medications prescribed to you by your doctor.

Are you concerned about PCOS?

If you have PCOS and have questions about your treatment options or are concerned you may have the condition, speak with your doctor.

Memorial Physician Services-Women’s Healthcare in central Illinois has experienced OB/GYN specialists who can help to diagnose and treat your condition.

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