Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a condition of women in which the ovaries produce excessive amounts of testosterone, sometimes thought of as a male hormone.
This excess testosterone causes problems such as:
- Unwanted Hair Growth
- Menstrual Cycle Irregularities
- Weight Gain – particularly in the belly
What is Meant by “Cystic Ovaries”?
The ovaries are the collection of eggs (also called Ova) which are produced in a female during embryonic development. During puberty, the ovaries are stimulated by hormones to mature. Each month, an increase in two hormones leads to one of the eggs being selected to “develop” and be released from the sac (or follicle) in which it is contained. The empty sac that remains produces a hormone to assist with pregnancy, and then undergoes a deterioration – usually. Sometimes, the sac will remain. This is a very, very tiny ovarian cyst.
Is this Dangerous, like Ovarian Cancer?
What Else Does High Testosterone Cause in A Woman?
Other results of high testosterone in women include male-like changes, such as
- Hair on the chin, around the lips, and possibly on the chest or back.
- Acne formation on the face, chest and back.
- Some women report an increase in libido and certain other male-like attitudes, such as anger issues.
What About Obesity and Diabetes with PCOS?
Because the ovarian follicles interfere with the hormone system to such a great extent, there is also a disruption of the hormones required to use glucose in the cell, leading very often to a form of diabetes and/or obesity. Like other causes of diabetes, this can be effectively managed or cured.
How Can a Woman With PCOS Be Recognized?
Here’s the picture of a woman with PCOS: a younger woman who experiences highly irregular or no periods, who is overweight and has hair growth and acne on her face, chest and back. She may also have a high libido and enlarged clitoris, and have anger or rage issues – but not all women have the same manifestations. Diagnosis cannot be made based on appearance. All of the factors must be considered in proper context.
Before any treatment is started, a diagnosis must be made based on a thorough physical exam with certain lab tests, and perhaps even an ultrasound of her ovaries. Only after a diagnosis is made, can treatment can be initiated.
How is PCOS Treated?
There are several ways to treat PCOS, although the most common is usually to add or change a prescription for birth control pills (which are high in estrogen, and counter the high testosterone). This carries risk of other conditions which must be carefully considered. Some doctors also prescribe a medication for diabetes (not insulin).
If you think you may have PCOS, please bring it up to your doctor soon, or call us for an appointment.