What does it mean, and why me?

At it’s core, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a fairly complex hormonal situation, which involves alteration in the way that the hormones produced by the ovaries and brain communicate, and sometimes changes in insulin sensitivity. It is a disorder that can present in a lot of ways for a lot of very different women. With regard to diagnosis, two out of three following findings are required:

1. Signs of irregular ovulation, such as the irregularity, or lack, of periods
2. Signs of hyperandrogenism, such as dark hair on the stomach and chin or severe acne
3. Multiple small cysts noted on the ovaries at the time of ultrasound

Although there are various laboratory tests that can be performed to confirm the diagnosis, your doctor can often diagnose you clinically using the above three symptoms and signs.

So, what does all of that mean, and what do you need to do? It depends on your goals, as PCOS means different things for women that want children versus those who do not. If you are overweight, occasionally loss of 5 – 10% of body weight and regular exercise can tip your hormones back toward regular cycling. However, we also sometimes see PCOS in very thin framed women, and so obviously this doesn’t always fix the problem. Treatment from there is either geared toward pregnancy, or making sure that you have regular cycles to prevent the buildup of uterine lining in the uterus. Metformin, which is a medication used in diabetes therapy, is often helpful for reestablishing ovulation, and can be used to help those who wish to achieve pregnancy. Sometimes the addition of other medications such as clomid to aid with ovulation is required. For those who do not desire pregnancy, oral contraceptives can be helpful in making sure that you are having normal cycles.|

The diagnosis of PCOS can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different women. Once the diagnosis is made, it is important to discuss with your doctor what it means for you specifically, and the best treatment plan for your reproductive, and overall, health.

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