Polycystic ovaries contain large number cysts; these cysts are harmless and no bigger than 8mm in size. Healthy ovaries have about half this amount of cysts. These cysts are under-developed follicles; they contain eggs that haven’t been able to develop properly. Often in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) these follicles are unable to release an egg, which means ovulation doesn’t take place. Many women have polycystic ovaries without the symptoms. Some women have the syndrome, but when checked with ultrasound their ovaries are normal-looking. The symptoms of PCOS usually start to become apparent in a woman’s late teens or early twenties. In most sufferers, the only symptoms are menstrual problems or a failure to conceive.
PCOS affects millions of women in the UK the syndrome can cause sufferers bodies to release a higher level of male hormones than normal, or cause the male hormones in their body to become more active than normal.
These can often lead to the following symptoms:
- Excessive body hair (hirsutism)
- Irregular or light periods
- Problems with conceiving and infertility
- Weight gain
- Hair loss from the head
The exact cause of PCOS is not known, but it often seems to run in families.
Women who are overweight have a greater risk of developing the condition. Many women with PCOS have a family history of diabetes and high cholesterol.
It’s also believed that insulin could play a role. Insulin is a hormone that controls sugar levels in the body it can also cause increased production and activity of male hormones. Many women with PCOS have an excess of insulin in their body. Being overweight is also known to increase the amount of insulin that our bodies produce.
Most women with polycystic ovaries have an imbalance in certain hormones:
- Increased levels of testosterone and other male sex hormones result in many of the symptoms of PCOS (all women naturally produce testosterone, but in much lower levels than men do).
- Sufferers usually have low levels of (SHBG) a sex hormone binding globulin, these low globulin levels mean that testosterone is more active in their body.
- Increased levels of LH (luteinising hormone) is thought to affect the ovaries; LH is created in the pituitary gland it stimulates ovulation and hormone production.
- Someone have raised levels of prolactin, prolactin is a hormone that stimulates the breast glands to produce milk during pregnancy.
Diagnosis of PCOS
If you think you may suffer from or have any of PCOS symptoms it is advisable to see your GP. Your GP or specialist will usually request an ultrasound scan to be performed, this can show if you have polycystic ovaries (a chain of cysts is often seen, and the ovaries are enlarged). However, diagnosis of the condition can often be confirmed without a scan.
You will probably need a blood test to determine glucose and cholesterol levels in your body and the level of hormones we already mentioned above, luteinising hormone, oestradiol, prolactin and testosterone.
If you are diagnosed with PCOS, you’re likely to be referred to a specialist – either a gynaecologist (specialist in treating conditions of the female reproductive system) or an endocrinologist (specialist in treating hormone problems). Your specialist will discuss with you the best way to manage your symptoms. If you are diagnosed with PCOS, you should request annual blood pressure checks to detect the possible long-term effects of the condition.
Treating polycystic ovary syndrome
Although there’s no known cure, the symptoms of PCOS can be treated. To help regulate the menstrual cycle and improve hair growth specific types of oral contraceptive can be prescribed. Laser hair removal can help to reduce hair growth. Losing a bit weight can help to control some of the symptoms. There is medication that can help to increase ovulation; in some cases surgery may be required. A lot of who women experience fertility problems due to PCOS can often still have a baby.
In some cases a minor surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) is performed under general anaesthetic. A small cut in your lower abdomen will be made and a laparoscope will be passed through so the ovaries can surgically treated using heat or a laser.
This guest post was supplied by www.cristianos.co.uk, a London based laser clinic. Cristianos specialize in the treatment of PCOS sufferers and have helped many clients secure NHS funding for laser treatment in their London clinic.