What is PCOS?
PCOS is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, and is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. PCOS has been recognized and diagnosed for seventy-five years. There are many signs and symptoms that a woman may experience. Since PCOS cannot be diagnosed with one test alone and symptoms vary from woman to woman, PCOS has been known as the “Silent Killer”. Early diagnosis of PCOS is important as it has been linked to an increased risk for developing several medical risks including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
PCOS is defined by a collection of signs and symptoms. The symptoms of PCOS that one patient experiences can be very different from the symptoms of another patient. If you have two or more of the following symptoms, you need to have a thorough checkup to determine if you need PCOS treatment:
- Irregular or missing menstrual periods
- Excess or unwanted body or facial hair growth
- Thinning hair on the scalp
- Weight problems, often including weight gain around the waist
- Skin problems, including skin tags, darkening skin and acne
Many women may experience weight gain or obesity, yet there are others who may be very lean. Multiple cysts on ovaries in a “string of pearls” pattern is also an indicator for PCOS. In addition, this hormonal imbalance can cause Insulin Resistance, which is also a prime indicator that you may have PCOS. Women suffering from PCOS may experience high testosterone levels, which cause other signs and symptoms such as Hirsutism (excessive hair growth), male pattern baldness and acne. This high level of testosterone can also prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg each month.
5-10% of women of childbearing age are affected by PCOS, with less than 50% of women diagnosed. This leaves millions of women undiagnosed. PCOS is responsible for 70% of infertility issues in women who have difficulty ovulating. Post menopausal women can also suffer from PCOS.
Studies have shown that approximately 40% of patients with diabetes and/or glucose intolerance between the ages of 20-50 have PCOS. In addition, some studies have found that if a mother has PCOS, there is a 50% chance that her daughter will have PCOS. The good news is that early diagnosis and proper education can help women lower all these risk factors and live a happy, healthier life.