What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition found in Pre-menopausal women and is characterised by the appearance of many small cysts along the outer edge of the ovary. The condition is thought to have a genetic component and is caused by an imbalance in the hormones that regulate ovulation (Follicle Stimulating Hormone, FSH and Leutinising Hormone, LH). This prevents the normal development of the ovarian follicle, resulting in fluid filled sacs or cysts containing an immature egg.
PCOS is also associated with other metabolic syndromes, which includes high blood cholesterol, obesity, high levels of insulin and Insulin resistance, all of which predispose to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
High insulin levels are thought to stimulate over production of androgens by the ovaries and this can disrupt the normal female hormone balance and cause several of the symptoms associated with PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS
Symptoms of PCOS inclue:
- irregular menstrual periods , which can be infrequent, prolonged or absent
- Hirsutism, excess unwanted hair growth on the face and body
- Androgenic alopecia, hair loss
- Seborrhoea, greasy skin from overproduction of sebum
- Weight gain
Treatments for PCOS
Treatments for PCOS focus on the symptoms and can include use of diabetic medications to reduce insulin levels, oral contraceptive pills to regulate menstrual cycle and antiandrogens to reduce androgen production and prevent symptoms due to overproduction of androgens.
A combination medication is available containing ethinyloestradiol, a synthetic oestrogen and cyproterone acetate, an antiandrogen that work together to reverse the effects of too much androgen, like acne and hirsutism.