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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age, afflicting between 5-10% of premenopausal women (almost 20% of women at The Fertility Center). It was identified almost 80 years ago and still today, we are puzzled regarding its cause. Since PCOS includes a spectrum of disorders rather than a single, discrete disease, women may experience a variety of signs and symptoms. Invariably some women are misdiagnosed with PCOS and others fail to be diagnosed.

Multiple features such as ovulation dysfunction, elevated androgen production, an abnormal ratio of pituitary gonadotropins (luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone), insulin resistance and polycystic ovaries can characterize the disorder. Recently a PCOS consensus workshop recommended that a diagnosis of PCOS should be based upon the findings of at least two of the following three criteria:

  1. Oligo-ovulation and/or anovulation (infrequent or absence of ovulation, respectively)
  2. Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound
  3. Hyperandrogenism (elevated levels of androgens or “male hormones”)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Symptoms

Women with PCOS suffer from numerous small and large cysts along the outer edge of each ovary. Symptoms include infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, excess hair growth and acne. Obese women are at higher risk for the disorder. The first signs of PCOS in adolescents may be infrequent or absent menstrual periods. For post-adolescent women, the first signs of the disorder can include unexplained weight gain or difficulty becoming pregnant.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Treatment

Effective treatment of PCOS addresses specific and general symptoms that patient’s may experience. These include excessive hair growth, irregular periods, infertility and insulin resistance status. It should be emphasized that while many therapies target specific symptoms of PCOS, they usually do not address the underlying cause. These therapies include:

  • Oral contraceptives
  • Weight loss
  • Use of insulin sensitizers
  • Ovarian drilling

To schedule a consultation to discuss the work-up, diagnosis and treatment of PCOS please call the office at (610) 447-2727.