Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that causes hormonal imbalances in approximately 5-10% of all women. PCOS is a complex and heterogeneous disorder, and the most common cause of infertility in women.
Women suffering from PCOS present either oligo-ovulation or anovulation (less frequent or absent ovulation). This results in irregular menstruation or the absence of menses. Less frequent or absent ovulation can also cause infertility. Women with PCOS also have an excess of androgenic activity (that is, the presence of an excess of male hormones), which can cause acne and excessive hair growth. Some patients also have insulin resistance, usually associated with obesity and type II diabetes. The severity of symptoms varies from patient to patient.
PCOS is linked to changes in hormone levels that make it difficult for the ovaries to release fully developed (mature) eggs. The reasons for these changes are still unclear, although being overweight seems to be one of the major risk factors. Following is a list of all affected hormones:
– Estrogen and progesterone, the female hormones that help a woman’s ovaries to release eggs.
– Androgen, a male hormone that is found in small amounts in women.
Typically, one or more eggs are released during the menstrual cycle, which is known as ovulation. In most cases, the release of the eggs occurs about two weeks after initiation of the cycle. In patients suffering PCOS, mature eggs are not released. Instead, they remain in the ovaries surrounded by a small amount of liquid. This problems with the release of eggs tends to translate in fertility problems. All other symptoms of this disorder are due to hormonal imbalances. Most of the time, PCOS is diagnosed in young women, usually in their 20s or 30s; however, it can also affect teenage girls. Symptoms often begin as soon as periods start.
Symptoms of PCOS include alterations in the menstrual cycle, such as no menstrual periods and irregular periods, which may be intermittent and can range from very mild to very abundant. Other symptoms of PCOS include: extra body hair growing on the abdomen, chest and face, like around the nipples; acne on the face, chest or back; and skin changes such as thick or dark marks around the armpits skin folds, neck, breasts and groin.
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned in the present article, don’t delay your visit to a specialist. The negative effects of PCOS can be overcome with adequate treatment. If you or a loved one is suffering from any of the above symptoms, you may contact us to make an appointment.
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