Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects between 2.2 percent and 26.7 percent of women worldwide between the age of 14 and 55, however, up to 70 percent of these women have not been diagnosed with this condition.

In 1721 the Italian physician Antonio Vallisneri described the symptoms of PCOS for the first time, making this an old yet not well-known condition.

As the name describes it, the syndrome consists of the creation of several cysts in the ovaries that cause an imbalance in the levels of estrogen, progesterone and androgens. This imbalance affects the production and release of eggs during the women's fertile period.

Doctors have not yet determined what causes PCOS. The high levels of male hormones can prevent the ovaries from normally producing the necessary hormones for releasing fertile eggs. However, a few conditions have been linked to the high production of androgen, such as genes, insulin resistance and inflammation.

What are the Symptoms of PCOS?

The most well-known symptom of PCOS is irregular or missed periods. When the ovaries have excess of androgen it causes it to not ovulate, which prevents the uterine lining from shedding as the body believes to be pregnant.  On the other extreme, when the body does bleed it is excessive as the lining has a longer time to build up and shed, meaning heavier periods.

The two most common symptoms are body hair growth and acne as the body is building more male hormones than it is expected. This imbalance causes hair to grow on typical male locations such as face, back, belly and chest. It also causes the skin to become more oily than normal, which in its turn causes acne breakouts.

PCOS can also cause longer, permanent and more dangerous consequences. When he syndrome is early diagnosed several, if not all, of the long-term consequences of the condition can be prevented. PCOS is directly related to infertility in women as it causes them to not ovulate, or to ovulate irregularly. It can also cause a serious metabolic syndrome, as 80 percent of women in this condition are overweight or obese, leading to high blood sugar, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol, leading to an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Another consequence of missing periods due to the build-up of the uterine lining instead of shedding, developing into a thick lining, s the increased risk of endometrial cancer.

Typically, Gynecologists will proceed with treating PCOS with birth control as it works by ingesting the amounts of estrogen and progestin daily, forcing a balance on hormones. While birth control is the primary treatment for PCOS, there are other alternative methods for regulating the hormones and preventing most of the symptoms and conditions. Any alternative treatment will generally start with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to aid on weight loss. Losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can already improve the symptoms as well as regulate the menstrual cycle. Studies have found that low-carb diets are more effective in lowering insulin levels and aiding on weight loss. In addition to the low-carb diet, research has shown that 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week can already improve the condition.

A relatively new research conducted by the researchers at Monash University in Australia has shown that a lifestyle change in combination with metformin, a drug typically used to treat type 2 diabetes as it improves the levels of insulin, is associated with higher weight loss, regulated cycles and decreased levels of insulin.

References:

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/polycystic-ovary-disease#the-bottom-line
  • https://www.news-medical.net/news/20150610/Combining-lifestyle-modification-with-metformin-could-help-women-manage-polycystic-ovary-syndrome.aspx
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439
  • http://www.mayo.edu/research/clinical-trials/cls-20112450?_ga=2.210694933.1418969165.1514997262-111672116.1514997262
  • https://www.pexels.com/de/
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