Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition that can cause you to have irregular periods,  get oily skin and pimples and grow extra facial hair. The condition can also make it hard to get pregnant by preventing  you from ovulation. People sometimes refer to polycystic ovary syndrome as “PCOS”. It is a very common condition and about 5% of all women suffer from PCOS.

WHAT CAUSES POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME ?

About once a month, the ovaries should make a structure called a follicle. As the follicle grows,  it makes hormones and releases an egg,  and this is called  “ovulation”.  In women with PCOS,  the ovaries do not work as well as they should and the follicle does not develop well.

Instead, the ovary makes many small follicles instead of one big one, and hormone levels can get out of balance. This can prevent ovulation from  occurring , which makes it difficult to become pregnant. The hormone imbalances  are what leads to the excessive facial hair.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME

Since PCOS is a syndrome, women can have all or some of the following symptoms :

Fewer than 8 periods per year

Weight gain

Growth of thick dark hair in a male pattern, such as on the top lip, chin, sideburns, chest and abdomen.

SHOULD I SEE MY GYNAELCOLOGIST ?

If you have symptoms of PCOS,  it is advisable to see  your gynaecologist.  PCOS symptoms are treatable.   Furthermore, women suffering from PCOS are more likely to end up with other health problems, such as –

Diabetes

Sleep apnoea

High cholesterol

Endometrial hyperplasia, a pre-cancerous thickening of the uterine lying

WHAT TESTS NEEDS TO BE DONE ?

The following tests may be performed :

Blood tests to measure your hormonal levels

Cholesterol and sugar tests

Pregnancy test

Ultrasound of the uterus and ovaries

How is Polycystic ovarian syndrome  treated ?

The treatment of PCOS mainly depends on whether you want to become pregnant now or later.

For women who want to become pregnant later, the combined oral contraceptive pill is the most common treatment. The pill reduces the hormonal symptoms such as excessive hairiness and regulates the menstrual cycle. Other treatments are  also available if using the pill doesn’t agree with you.

Women who want to become pregnant now can’t go on the pill. These women need  “ ovulation induction” therapy, the most common of which is Clomiphene (Clomid).  Women who don’t  become pregnant on Clomid can then either  try fertility injections  (FSH ovulation induction), ovarian drilling, or IVF.  A consultation with a fertility specialist is necessary to understand the pros and cons of these options.

If you are overweight,  losing weight can improve many of your symptoms.  Losing just 5 percent of your body weight can help a lot to treat the symptoms  (hairiness,)  and make you ovulate, therefore helping you become pregnant.