Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal disorder that has the capacity to impair the lives of the people who live with it. As the name suggests, PCOS is defined by the presence of 'cysts', which are partially formed follicles containing an egg, on the ovaries. The specific cause of PCOS is unknown, however there are links between insulin resistance, family history, as well as lifestyle and environmental factors (Jean Hailes, 2018). 

Signs and Symptoms

PCOS usually presents in adolescence, and each person who has PCOS will experience it differently as the symptoms are varied and diverse. They include:

  • Multiple cysts on the ovaries

  • Irregular, infrequent or heavy periods

  • Excess facial or body hair, known as hirsutism

  • Acne

  • Changes in skin pigmentation

  • Alopecia 

  • Depression

  • Anxiety (Jean Hailes, 2018).

Testing, Diagnosing and managing PCOS

There is a range of specific criteria when diagnosing PCOS, which includes:

  • Visible follicles on the ovaries

  • One or both ovaries enlarged

  • Hyperandrogenism: increased levels of 'male' hormones in the blood

  • Lack of ovulation

  • Irregular periods/cessation of periods 

Testing includes:

  • Taking a thorough medical history, with a particular focus on physical symptoms and well being, including weight

  • Transvaginal ultrasound (only used on patients who have been sexually active - abdominal ultrasound is used otherwise)

  • Hormonal blood tests

There are many different ways to manage PCOS, and the one that suits you is really dependent on the symptoms that you have, the severity of the illness, and whether or not you're planning to have children. It's best that you speak with your GP to discuss these options. 

If you have a story about your experience living with PCOS, please feel free to get in touch!

Page References

Jean Hailes. (2018). PCOS. Retrieved 11th January 2019, from: https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/pcos

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Note: Stephanie Sayss is not run by medical professionals. This platform is an educational tool only, and not intended to be used for medical advice. Always seek the assistance of a doctor - this platform is intended to be used a tool to assist you in doing so.

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