Also known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Polycystic Ovaries occur due to a hormonal disorder in women. This condition causes the production of high levels of male hormones called androgen in women, causing various health problems related to menstruation and pregnancy.
Usually, the signs and symptoms of polycystic ovaries differ from patient to patient. Some of the common symptoms a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome experiences are:
Irregular Menstruation: Women with PCOS lack ovulation which prevents the monthly shedding of the uterine lining. This results in irregular menstrual cycle.
Heavy bleeding: As the regular period is absent, the uterine lining builds up for a long time. When it finally begins to shed, a woman gets a heavy period as compared to the normal bleeding.
Acne: Due to excess production of androgen, the skin becomes oilier than usual. This causes acne on various body parts including face, upper back and chest.
Weight Gain: More than 70 % of the women with polycystic ovaries suffer from obesity.
Darkening of Skin: In some cases, dark patches may develop on the skin in areas like neck, groin and under the breasts.
Headache: The hormonal disbalance can trigger headaches as well.
Hair Growth: Polycystic ovaries also lead to excessive hair growth on face and body. This condition is also known as hirsutism.
Baldness: Some women with polycystic ovaries can also expect male pattern baldness.
Emotional disturbances due to hormonal changes
Though the main causes of polycystic ovaries are not known, there are certain factors that are usually associated with the excess production of androgen. Some of the factors that may play a role in PCOS are as follows:
Excess Insulin: Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells in using sugar from the food and converts it into energy or stores it in the form of glucose for future use. Insulin resistance happens when the cells in the body stop responding normally to it, resulting in high levels of insulin and sugar in the body. This condition of excess insulin may increase the production of androgen, causing disturbances in ovulation.
Genes: Genes are related in causing polycystic ovaries. Family without diabetes mellitus is a strong contributing factor
Inflammation: Patients with polycystic ovaries usually have high levels of inflammation in the body, and this is also linked to the excess production of androgen hormone in the body.
Polycystic ovaries are not just responsible for causing the symptoms mentioned above but can also lead to several health issues. Few of them are mentioned below:
Infertility: Due to polycystic ovaries, women cannot ovulate regularly, and this irregular ovulation prevents the production of eggs for fertilization. This leads to trouble in pregnancy and in many cases infertility as well.
Sleep Apnea: In this condition, obesity may cause repeated pauses in breathing occur during the night which interrupts the sleep.
Metabolic Syndrome: Most of the women suffering from polycystic ovaries are obese or overweight. This increases the risk of high blood pressure, blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol. All these factors are together called metabolic syndrome that can increase the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease.
Endometrial Cancer: The thickened lining in the uterus due to irregular ovulation can increase the risk of endometrial cancer.
Depression: Due to various hormonal changes and unwanted hair growth, many women with polycystic ovaries tend to experience depression.
Once the symptoms and complications related to polycystic ovaries are detected in a woman, doctors recommend various diagnostic tests to ensure the presence of the hormonal disorder. The doctor first asks the patient about the symptoms and then moves forward for the pelvic exam. During the pelvic exam, the doctor checks for the issues related to the ovaries or any other part of the reproductive system.
The diagnostic process also involves blood tests and an ultrasound. Blood tests are performed to check the presence of high levels of male hormones. Moreover, an ultrasound test is performed to identify abnormal follicles and other complications in the uterus and ovaries.
Though there is no cure for polycystic ovaries, doctors prescribe treatments that can control the symptoms. Primary polycystic ovaries treatment involves healthy alterations in the lifestyle and medications. Mostly the treatment is tailored as per the condition of the patient. The main aim of a polycystic ovary treatment includes weight control, lowering the blood glucose level, preventing fertility issues, hindering the growth of acne, and restoration of regular periods. During the treatment, the patient is required to attend regular appointments to check the progress.