Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) GwinnettOne of the more common conditions which can disrupt a woman’s reproductive system is polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. Affecting between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women in the US, PCOS is a hormonal imbalance in which a woman’s body produces too much androgen. This affects menstrual regularity and fertility, and causes multiple cysts to form in the ovaries. This same hormonal imbalance can also be associated with insulin resistance and is more prevalent among obese women.

Though PCOS can appear early in puberty and in girls as young as 11, it is sometimes undiagnosed until a woman begins to notice difficulty conceiving. Some women don’t develop PCOS until later in life, often following significant weight gain. While PCOS can have significant implications for fertility and has also been associated with a higher risk of several serious health conditions, it is a highly treatable condition.

 

Next Steps

Although there is no single definitive test for PCOS, our board-certified gynecologist, Dr. Kristine Gould at Gynecology Associates of Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, GA can administer a series of evaluations to look for the primary aspects of PCOS, as well as rule out other potential causes for your symptoms. We will begin by discussing your medical history and the symptoms you may be experiencing, as well as performing a physical exam to check for high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI), and a pelvic exam. In addition, we may have a blood sample tested to determine your hormone levels and use an ultrasound imaging machine to look for ovarian cysts and a thickened uterine lining.

If you are diagnosed with PCOS, treatment will depend on your specific needs and symptoms, as well as your interest in becoming pregnant. For women who do not currently want to be pregnant, we often recommend a combination of birth control pills (to balance hormone levels) and lifestyle changes like weight loss. In some cases, this may also be combined with a type of medication called anti-androgen pills, or we may prescribe insulin-sensitizing drugs, as insulin is another hormone which is often unbalanced in women with PCOS.

If you do want to conceive, treatments will focus on improving your fertility. Certain medications can be used to induce ovulation, and in vitro fertilization (or IVF) can be an option for some women. In some cases, you may be a candidate for a surgery which may temporarily help with ovulation.

Regardless of whether you want to focus on preventing or stimulating pregnancy, it’s important to seek treatment to control your PCOS, because the condition is also associated with a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and endometrial cancer. These risks increase with age, so effectively addressing PCOS at an early age can make a significant difference in both quality of life and life expectancy.

 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome FAQs

What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome?
Though symptoms will vary somewhat from one woman to another, the most common symptoms of PCOS include irregular menstrual periods, discomfort/pain from ovarian cysts, hirsutism (excess hair growth on the face, chest, abdomen, or upper thighs), severe and/or stubborn acne and oily skin, and acanthosis nigricans (patches of thickened, velvety, darkened skin). PCOS is also associated with obesity, infertility, and insulin resistance.

What causes polycystic ovary syndrome?
The cause of the condition is still unknown. However, researchers believe it to be a combination of several factors, and genetics is thought to play a role as well. Obesity is also likely to be related, because over 80% of women with PCOS are obese and when PCOS is developed at a later age, it often follows a substantial weight gain. In some cases, bariatric surgery to help morbidly obese women lose weight has also been shown to improve or resolve PCOS.

 

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Gynecology Associates of Gwinnett
601 Professional Drive, Suite 330
Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046   
Phone: 678.380.1980   
Fax: 678.380.7348

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