PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome, a chronic condition that develops when your body produces too many androgen hormones like testosterone. Women normally have some amount of testosterone (just as men have a small amount of estrogen), but in PCOS, levels of androgens are far higher than normal, throwing the natural hormone balance “out of whack.” Inside the ovaries, the increased levels of androgens also stimulate the development of tiny cysts that interfere with normal ovulation.
So far, researchers haven’t determined the underlying cause of PCOS, but they do believe family history of PCOS, high levels of insulin (a hormone that controls levels of blood sugar or glucose), a personal or family history of diabetes, and chronic inflammation may play a role. Some studies also indicate taking certain medications for long periods of time can also increase the risks of developing PCOS, and women who have abnormal periods also may be at an increased risk for polycystic ovary syndrome.
Because PCOS interferes with normal ovulation, it also takes a toll on your fertility, making it more difficult to become pregnant. In addition to fertility problems, PCOS causes symptoms like:
Plus, if you have PCOS, you’re also at an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
PCOS diagnosis starts with a physical exam and a review of your symptoms, as well as a review of your personal and family medical histories to look for “clues” and risk factors for PCOS or other conditions that can cause some of the same symptoms. Ultrasound exams are useful in evaluating the structure of your ovaries and looking for the tiny, characteristic cysts. Blood tests are also helpful for determining if you have insulin resistance and for measuring the levels of specific hormones in your blood.
Right now, there’s no cure for PCOS, but there are treatments that can relieve your symptoms. Dr. Tureanu often prescribes hormone therapy treatments, which can be helpful in:
If you’re trying to become pregnant and hormone therapy isn’t working, other fertility treatments can also help. And finally, lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet and being more physically active are also important. Since PCOS is chronic, you’ll need to visit Dr. Tureanu regularly for checkups, and you’ll also need to be screened on an ongoing basis for heart disease and diabetes.