Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

You have extremely heavy periods, cramping, and excessive facial hair. Add in sleep apnea, weight gain, hypothyroidism, depression and anxiety, and oily or dry skin. What could these seemingly disparate symptoms have in common?

Some or all of these symptoms could be present in a female with polycystic ovary syndrome (referred to as PCOS).

The diagnosis of the condition can be difficult. Education for individuals and family physicians is paramount in diagnosing and treating this condition.

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

PCOS is frustratingly common for an individual assigned female at birth (AFAB). It is the most common endocrine system disorder for such patients.

A PCOS diagnosis may be given or considered when one or more of the following conditions are present:

  • “Cysts” found on ovaries are fluid-filled sacs surrounding the eggs in ovaries
  • Irregular periods (oligoovulation)
  • Excess androgen causing extra facial/body hair and male-patterned fat distribution (hyperandrogenism)

Note that just because someone has cysts in or on their ovaries does not mean they have PCOS.

Additionally, prior to giving a diagnosis, doctors would ideally eliminate other conditions that may cause hyperandrogenism.

These conditions can include hirsutism, prediabetes, or adrenal hyperplasia.

Symptoms of PCOS

What are the primary symptoms of polycystic ovary symptoms?

The main symptoms necessary for a PCOS diagnosis are polycystic ovaries, oligoovulation, and hyperandrogenism.

However, many other symptoms can persist in individuals with this condition, some more common than others:

  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Oily skin
  • Difficulty conceiving
  • Thinning hair
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Lowered insulin sensitivity
  • Irregular period or no period at all
  • Dark skin patches on neck or armpits (also a symptom of diabetes)

Additionally, individuals with undiagnosed PCOS are at risk of suffering from other comorbid conditions.

These may include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Depression and anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes

If you have some of the symptoms above, consult with a gynaecologist about possible next steps. These doctors can assist you with getting a diagnosis and prescribing you the necessary treatment to help manage your condition.

What Causes Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

The cause of polycystic ovarian syndrome remains unknown.

From what we know, an individual’s genetics plays some role. Additionally, the onset of PCOS correlates with the level of anti-Müllerian hormones present in the mother’s womb at birth.

PCOS Treatment

Unfortunately, PCOS cannot be cured. Current treatment for the condition focuses on managing the symptoms.

As the first line of treatment, your doctor may recommend getting more exercise and eating a healthy diet. This may be done with weight loss in mind; studies have shown a decrease in weight for PCOS patients was associated with improved symptoms.

Medications are also available to treat PCOS.

Your doctor may prescribe birth control options to help regulate your period, thereby reducing the risk of endometrial cancer arising from irregular periods. To this effect, progestin therapy may also be an effective treatment. 

For women who want to get pregnant, medications like metformin and letrozole may induce ovulation and stimulation of fertility. You should thoroughly discuss these medications and their side effects with your physician.

To treat the symptoms of hyperandrogenism, doctors may also prescribe spironolactone. It is an androgen blocker. Taking it should help with symptoms like excessive hair growth, acne, and oily skin.

Consult With an Expert Today

Those with polycystic ovary syndrome require early intervention. The condition can exacerbate and coexist with disorders like depression and sleep apnea. This may seriously affect the quality of life for these individuals.

Treatment for PCOS is always available, and our experts are willing to help you get back to feeling your best. Let’s get in touch; contact one of our representatives today and we’ll see what we can do for you.