PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

PCOS is a very common female endocrine disorder causing irregular cycles and infertility in approximately 10% of women of reproductive age. The disorder was originally called Stein-Leventhal Syndrome.

Although the symptoms and severity vary, associated features are obesity, trouble with ovulation and irregular menses or even lack of menses, and excessive effects of masculinizing hormones. Diabetes and insulin resistance are strongly correlated, as well as heart disease in the long-term. The diagnosis is frequently made by history and exam alone, although a clinician may order blood tests to look for other disorders or causes. Ultrasound to look for cystic changes of the ovaries is not necessary for diagnosis, since not all women with PCOS have cysts.

Medical treatment of PCOS depends on the patient’s goals, whether it be regulation of menses, fertility, or treatment of acne/hirsutism.

Weight loss for any obesity present is the most effective method of improving fertility, and with a low carbohydrate diet and regular exercise, many women are able to treat the disorder effectively. If diabetes or insulin resistance are part of the problem, medications to decrease blood sugar may be used. To help with excess new hair growth and acne, standard oral contraceptive pills are often. Combating fertility problems may involve the use of oral or injectable medications to aid ovulation. Long-term risks for diabetes and heart disease are important to address, since these can affect longevity and health in the future.