Body & Fitness

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): symptoms, causes and treatments

Affecting 10% of women, polycystic ovarian syndrome is a serious condition.

Excess body hair, weight gain, acne – not only are these awful symptoms, but they may mean you have a condition that could be affecting your ability to get pregnant.

**Could you have polycystic ovaries?

**You may have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) if:

  • Your periods are irregular, infrequent or virtually nonexistent

  • You’ve been trying to get pregnant with no luck

  • You have excess hair growing on your face, chest, stomach, thumbs or toes

  • You suffer from acne, oily skin or dandruff

  • You’re carrying excess weight, especially around the waist

  • Your hair is thinning

  • You have patches of skin on your neck, arms, breasts or thighs that are thick and dark brown or black

  • You have skin tags (little flaps of excess skin) in your armpits or around your neck

  • You experience pelvic pain

  • You suffer from anxiety or depression

Not everyone with PCOS will have all these symptoms.

**Why me?

**It’s not clear why some women suffer from polycystic ovaries and others don’t. Many experts think genetics play a part so if a family member has it you may have a greater risk of also getting it. What they do know is that women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance and their bodies produce more androgens than normal. Androgens are male hormones that females also make, and high levels can affect our ability to make and release eggs from the ovaries. It’s also thought that the amount of insulin in your body can contribute to PCOS. Scientists have found that many women with PCOS have excess levels of insulin in their bodies, which seems to increase the production of androgens.

**What can I do?

**There is no cure for PCOS, but there are things you can do to manage it, including:

  • **Making lifestyle changes.

**Eating healthily can help to lower blood sugar, which may improve the way your body uses insulin and even out hormone levels. A healthy diet, along with exercise, can also help you to lose weight. Research has shown that even losing 10% of your body weight can make your periods more regular, increasing your chances of getting pregnant.

  • **Taking the contraceptive pill.

**If you’re not trying to get pregnant, birth control pills can help to control your periods, reduce levels of male hormones and clear up acne. Research has shown that metformin, which is used to treat type-2 diabetes, may help with PCOS symptoms because it affects the way insulin controls blood sugar levels. It can slow the growth of abnormal hair and may get ovulation back to normal, as well as helping with weight loss.

  • Other medications.

Your doctor may prescribe drugs designed specifically to help with the various symptoms of PCOS, including medication for hair growth and acne. Fertility medications, such as clomiphene, or IVF may be suggested if you’re trying to get pregnant.

  • **Surgery.

**A technique called ovarian drilling, performed laprascopically, can increase the chances of ovulation. It’s not permanent and won’t improve symptoms such as increased hair growth.

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