If you are experiencing excess facial hair, abnormal periods, or complexion problems, you should make an appointment with a medical professional to discuss your symptoms. They could be indicative of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS happens to be the most common hormonal disorder in women. A notable feature of this syndrome is the development of enlarged, fluid collecting follicles on the ovaries which can prevent regular ovulation and cause higher androgen (male hormones) levels in your body. The enlarged follicles are actually immature follicles containing immature eggs which have ceased developing normally.
If you have two or more signs and symptoms of excess androgen in your body, your doctor will suspect PCOS. These indicators may start as early as menarche (which is the onset of your periods during puberty) or any time before menopause, and may include:
- Hirsutism -- which is increased body hair all over, and facial hair in particular.
- Male pattern baldness.
- Severe acne.
- Abnormally long period cycles (35 days or longer) or skipped periods.
- Scant or heavy periods.
- Fertility issues.
- Enlarged ovaries with numerous underdeveloped follicles and eggs that may look like pearls on an ultrasound scan.
Weight gain and obesity can make the symptoms worse. Genetics has been identified as having a role in this condition, so if any of your relatives have been diagnosed with it, it is more likely that you will develop it.
There has been some debate on what is the initial cause of PCOS. There is some evidence that the problem may originate with hormone regulation in the hypothalamus and may be a multi-system disorder. The fact that some women may still have symptoms of the disorder while not having enlarged ovary follicles or after removal of the ovaries, gives some credence to this viewpoint.
Other notable factors are:
- Insulin resistance or excess insulin in your system. This can affect ovulation and it can also increase the presence of male hormones.
- A mild inflammatory response in many women, indicated by a high white blood cell count. This can also contribute to excess androgen production.
For successful treatment you will want to consult your gynecologist, who may recommend dietary changes, and also prescribe certain medicines to counteract the symptoms.
Live-style recommendations and treatment could include:
- Being advised to lose weight and exercise more.
- Being advised to begin a low-glycemic index diet consisting primarily of complex carbohydrates like whole wheat foods, fruits and vegetables.
- A prescription given for metformin or another diabetes medication if other diabetes indicators are present.
- A prescription given for oral contraceptives to reduce androgenic symptoms such as hirsutism and acne, and/or to regulate periods.
- A prescription given for FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) or clomiphene to encourage normal ovulation and increase fertility, for women who want to become pregnant.
One final fertility remedy for women who are clomiphene-resistant is a laparoscopic surgery known as "ovarian drilling" and also "band aid surgery." In this procedure your ovaries would be punctured by a small needle that carries an electric current or by a small laser device that destroys some of the ovarian tissue. This reduces androgen levels which can also induce ovulation.
Along with diabetes, PCOS is also associated with increased risk of developing: endometrial cancer, lipid abnormalities plus cardiovascular problems, and obstructive sleep apnea, so it is important to see your gynecologist if you are experiencing symptoms. These risks can be reduced with proper treatment through a professional like Chervenak Donald M.