Polycystic ovarian syndrome is also known as the Stein-Leventhal syndrome. In general, it is an endocrine (hormonal) disorder which is characterized by the enlarged ovaries. They are filled with small bubbles with fluid. PCOS is a common disease of the reproductive system in women.
The polycystic ovarian syndrome appears when the ovaries produce a lot of male sex hormones (androgens) which are normally produced in small amounts. During every menstrual cycle, a big amount of small follicles (bubbles) is formed. The egg can be released by them after some period of time. In PCOS, the ovum does not mature and ovulation does not happen. The follicles do not rupture but they are filled with fluid and become cysts. That is why the ovaries become much larger than normally. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have masculine features such as the excessive growth of facial and body hair, acne, baldness and abdominal fat around the waist. According to the statistics, about 5-10% of all the women who have not gone through menopause suffer from the polycystic ovarian syndrome. It is one of the main causes of infertility since a woman may not even notice that she suffers from the disease that requires treatment.
What causes the polycystic ovarian syndrome?
It is hard to say what causes this disease since doctors do not have clear answers. However, it is known that the disease is connected with the absence of response of body tissues to insulin (a hormone responsible for the balance of blood sugar). According to recent studies, the ovaries of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome produce too much male sex hormones. The body is not able to process insulin properly.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common reproductive disorder in women of reproductive age and despite decades of research the etiology the disorder is not known. The characteristic hyperandrogenism and anovulation is associated with abnormal neuroendocrine function and insulin resistance. Obesity is a common correlated phenotype of Polycystic ovary syndrome and weight gain worsens the reproductive and metabolic complications. Currently there is no evidence-based treatment plan for infertility in Polycystic ovary syndrome; yet weight loss by dietary restriction and regular exercise are strongly advocated. Weight loss and increased insulin sensitivity appear to drive improvements in reproductive outcomes in women with Polycystic ovary syndrome; however, the mechanism connecting these changes with the reproductive axis is not fully understood. (sourse)
Symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome
Symptoms may appear at any age. They may be observed during puberty – the menstrual cycle may begin later or may not begin at all. Girls may have facial and body hair similar to men. Also, they gain weight. The menstrual cycle is disrupted and the menstruation bleeding may be abundant. The symptoms are individual but still there are some typical signs of the disease. They can occur all at the same time:
- the appearance of facial and chest hair,
- the absence of menses or irregular menstrual bleeding,
- bleeding from the uterus,
- increased blood pressure,
- excess fat around the waist,
- thin hair and baldness similar to men.
As it was mentioned, the polycystic ovarian syndrome is accompanied by the symptoms of diabetes such as weight gain and frequent urination, candidiasis or chronic skin infections. Polycystic ovary syndrome can be detected by ultrasound. But not always. 20% of women who have not gone through menopause may not experience any symptoms of PCOS until the ultrasound is used.
The Stein-Levinthal syndrome can lead to the development of other diseases. That is why it is important to take medical exams regularly. Even if some symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome disappear after menopause, some diseases may appear after some period of time. For example, type 2 diabetes. During menopause, about half of the women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have type 2 diabetes. That is why it is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and consume the right food.
The increased level of testosterone may cause the increase of the LDL (so-called “bad” cholesterol) in your body which can lead to heart diseases and heart attacks. Endometrial cancer is another possible complication. Since some women with PCOS do not ovulate on a regular basis there are some periods during which the endometrium grows excessively.
What can you do?
The doctor may advise you to follow a particular diet in order to balance the insulin level and maintain the normal cholesterol level. It is recommended to lose some weight as well. It might help women with PCOS get pregnant.
What can a doctor do?
Your doctor will have to assess the symptoms according to the information from your medical records and examination. You will have to take tests in order to confirm the diagnosis. The required examination: ultrasound, blood tests for the presence of male sex hormones. Information about the insulin level plus the level of glucose and the luteinizing hormone is also necessary. Though the polycystic ovary syndrome cannot be cured, it is possible to keep under control some of the symptoms. The treatment course will depend on the symptoms you have, how intensive they are and your own attitude to the possibility of getting pregnant.
The doctor may prescribe you progestogen (a synthetic analogue of female sex hormone) or contraceptives to induce regular menstrual cycles. Some of the contraceptives with a low concentration of active components contain estrogen and a slight amount of anti-androgen. It might help to control weight, the hair growth, and acne. You may also be prescribed such drugs as metformin that will help your body use insulin in a proper way. It might also help to lose the body weight and lower the blood pressure as well as restore the menstrual cycle. You should remember while taking these meds – they won’t work at once. And sometimes it is necessary to try other meds for effective treatment.