Do I Have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
If you struggle with infertility, acne, extra hair growth, or ovulation problems (irregular periods), you might have a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This affects five million women in the United States, often beginning as young as 12-13 years old, according to WomensHealth.Gov. The name is actually misleading: while some women with PCOS do have cysts, the majority have many follicles (each containing an egg) in their ovaries, more than the average patient does at their age. When this was first visualized on ultrasound, they referred to it as “polycystic” even though the syndrome is not a problem with cysts. Rather, it is a problem with developing an individual follicle (egg) each month to ovulate- the follicles are “stuck” so to speak at a small size because of a hormonal imbalance.
You are not alone! This is a common reproductive problem. It is estimated that between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women have the condition. Here are some symptoms and more information so you know when you need to visit a local fertility clinic and ask more about it.
Heredity (a genetic predisposition), low-grade inflammation, and excess insulin are some of the possible causes of having polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of PCOS
If you have PCOS, your doctor might recommend basic or advanced fertility therapies to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Many cases of PCOS are easily treatable with high success rates. Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms of PCOS:
- Lack of or irregular ovulation
- Irregular periods or none at all
- Painful or heavy periods
- Unusual hormonal levels
- Extra face and body hair growth
- Obesity or difficulty losing weight
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Oily skin
- Sleep apnea
What Might Cause the Condition Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is something you develop and doesn’t have a single cause. However, doctors have seen some similarities in women that are diagnosed with the condition. One commonality is having the condition run in your family. If you have a sister, mother or grandmother with PCOS, you are more likely to get it. You might also get PCOS due to low-grade inflammation, or a high level of insulin in your body. It has also been linked to hormonal imbalances in stimulating hormones released from the pituitary (FSH and LH), or in estrogens and androgens.
PCOS includes a wide range of symtpoms. Not everyone is the same. Some people are more lean with PCOS, while others struggle with excess body weight. Some women have irregular periods, but do not have extra hair growth, while other women may have facial hair that they need to shave or wax frequently.
Doctors at fertility clinics in Vermont can review your symptoms and perform a physical examination in order to see if you might have polycystic ovarian syndrome. For example, if you have irregular periods and some of the other signs of PCOS (like acne or excess hair growth), you may have PCOS.
Your physician performs a physical examination and might take blood tests to look for high testosterone or blood sugar levels. Ultrasounds can also look at your uterine lining and ovaries to determine if they have the classic “string of pearls” (high number of follicles) that is seen in PCOS.
If you suspect that you have polycystic ovarian syndrome, talk to your local Vermont Fertility Clinic. They can run some tests and determine if this might be the reason you are unable to get pregnant. PCOS should be managed in order to keep the condition under control and to avoid complications, such as developing high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, cholesterol abnormalities, liver inflammation, and infertility.
Contact us here at Northeastern Reproductive Medicine at 1 802-655-8888 if you suspect your symptoms might be related to PCOS.