Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal disorders in women of reproductive age. Affected 5 to 10 women with PCOS have irregular menstrual bleeding and often have difficulty getting pregnant. The syndrome occurs when levels of hormones are abnormal. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, over 116 million women (3.4%) are affected by PCOS worldwide (Bharathi et al., 2017).
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome” refers to the appearance of small cysts along the outer edge of the enlarged ovaries of women. In most cases, menstrual irregularities in women with PCOS begin at menarche and consist of oligomenorrhea or amenorrhea less frequently. In the fourth decade of life more than 70% of women with PCOS spontaneously reach menstrual regularity.
Three sets of criteria have been created for the identification of PCOS: the National Institutes of Health criteria (1992), Rotterdam criteria (2003), and Androgen Excess Society criteria (2006). All 3 subsets include chronic oligo/anovulation, clinical and/or biochemical hyperandrogenism and polycystic ovarian morphology on transvaginal ultrasound, or combinations of these conditions.
Causes of PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but experts believe it is related to the production of an excess amounts of androgens, a group of male sex hormones. Excess androgens also disrupt the normal menstrual cycle. They may cause infertility, acne and abnormal hair growth, such as excess facial hair or male pattern baldness.
Below are some of the associated risks factors of PCOS.
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Elevated lipids
- Sleep Apnea
- Liver disease
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- High blood pressure
- Obesity possibly leading to issues with low self-esteem and depression
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver (steatohepatitis)
- Depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of PCOS.
The symptoms vary based on the system of the individual, diagnosis is usually made after any of the following symptoms are found: menstrual irregularity, excess androgen and polycystic ovaries. Since there is no definitive test for PCOS, a physician’s diagnosis is based on findings from medical history, physical and pelvic exam and pelvic ultrasound.
Treatment for PCOS.
No simple cure for PCOS exists, however it can be controlled. Decreasing the risk of long-term complications can be achieved by engaging in regular exercise, keeping a healthy diet, losing excess weight, quitting smoking and using medications to control hormones are all important parts of treatment for PCOS. There are several recommended treatment options, including:
- Birth control pills.
- Diabetes medications.
In summary, PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. PCOS challenges the quality of life of the women who suffer from it. Yet with proper treatment, PCOS can be managed and symptoms can be relieved. In addition, early diagnosis and treatment of PCOS can help reduce the risk of long-term complications such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Written by Khadija Yahaya (Programs Assistant).