Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
What is PCOS?
PCOS (or polycystic ovarian syndrome, which means ‘many cysts’ is a complex condition caused by an imbalance of hormones (androgens) in a woman’s body. It affects up to 1 in 5 women worldwide, and is the most common endocrine disorder in women. It is a common cause of infertility, but having it doesn’t necessarily prevent you from conceiving.
How do I know if I have it?
PCOS has a wide variety of symptoms. Since every woman’s body is different, many women are affected by PCOS in different ways and may not show all of the signs (or almost no signs at all). You may be affected by PCOS if you have:
- Abnormal, missing, or painful periods
- Excess hair on your face or body
- Acne or dark skin patches
- Hair loss
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Weight gain or bloating
Women with PCOS also have a higher rate of developing further medical problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Because of this, it’s important to discuss how to manage your health and risks with your doctor.
How is it diagnosed?
Many symptoms of PCOS are mistaken for signs of other gynaecological issues. Partly as a result, up to 70% of affected women don’t know they have it. To determine whether or not you have PCOS, your doctor will commission a variety of tests. These may include:
- Blood tests – This will look for increased levels of male hormones in your blood which can indicate PCOS.
- Physical exam – your doctor will measure your body mass index (BMI), check your blood pressure, and look for other signs of PCOS (such as acne or excess hair on your face)
- Pelvic ultrasound – this can be used to check for cysts in your ovaries, or to assess the lining of the uterus
Based on the results of these tests, your doctor may prescribe treatment or refer you to a specialist. You can ask to be referred to Dr Homar at Toowoomba Obstetrics and Gynaecology for further treatment by mentioning us to your doctor.
How is it treated?
Science has not yet discovered a ‘cure’ for polycystic ovarian syndrome, and treatment currently involves long-term symptom management. To help manage symptoms, your doctor may recommend:
- Lifestyle modification/weight loss – Dr Homar may recommend a specialised diet or weight loss strategy to help minimise symptoms.
- Hormonal therapy – medication (such as some forms of hormonal birth control) can help to regulate your hormone levels and minimise the symptoms of PCOS.
- Fertility treatments – these may be recommended if you are trying to conceive with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Toowoomba Obstetrics and Gynaecology offers a wide range of treatments and expert advice – click here to learn more.