PCOS: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Part #1: The Causes

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This week, we discuss Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and what causes it. Next week, please read on for our article on the solutions to PCOS.

WHAT IS PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that affects women. It involves reproductive and hormonal disturbances, primarily anovulation (when a woman does not ovulate) and high levels of androgen or male hormones in women (Diamanti-Kandarakis E, 2012). Hormonal issues are typically accompanied by metabolic disturbances such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels (Diamanti-Kandarakis E, 2012).

It is estimated to affect 2–20% of reproductive-aged women (Pourteymour Fard Tabrizi F, 2020). This, of course, is a massive range, largely because PCOS goes undiagnosed in so many cases. Many clinicians report at least half of infertility cases in women involve PCOS.

PCOS can lead to an increased risk of developing several medical complications including:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Sleep apnea
  • Possibly an increased risk of endometrial cancer (Roos N, 2011)

 

SYMPTOMS of PCOS include:

  • Irregular periods or no periods at all
  • Heavy periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Cysts on the ovaries
  • Difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
  • Insulin resistance
  • High testosterone which can cause excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
  • Oily skin or acne
  • Patches of thick, darker, velvety skin on the neck, arms, breasts or thighs
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sleep apnea
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