“PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is an endocrine disorder that affects over 7 million women.  That’s more than the number of people diagnosed with breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus combined.”  – Louise Chang, MD

September marks PCOS Awareness Month and presents an opportunity to raise worldwide public awareness of polycystic ovarian syndrome.  It is also an opportunity for women diagnosed with PCOS to get clear information and support through educational resources and outreach.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a health condition that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, fertility, hormones, heart, blood vessels, and appearance.  While the cause is still unknown, the main underlying problem of PCOS is a hormone imbalance caused when the ovaries make too many male hormones (androgens).  High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation.  Researchers also believe that insulin (a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body to use or store) is also linked to PCOS.  It is common sign of PCOS to have increased levels of insulin, which appears to also increase the production of androgen in women.

Women with PCOS have three characteristic symptoms:

Irregular periods: Infrequent, irregular, or prolonged menstrual cycles are the most common sign of PCOS.  For example, you might have fewer than nine periods a year, more than 35 days between periods, and abnormally heavy periods.

Excess androgens:  Elevated levels of male hormones may result in physical symptoms such as excess hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, and toes or severe acne and male-pattern baldness.

Polycystic ovaries:  This is when ovaries are enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs, and as a result, the ovaries might fail to function properly.  Polycystic ovaries can only be detected through an ultrasound.

Complications of PCOS:

  • Infertility *PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility.
  • Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
  • Miscarriage or premature birth
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer)
  • Oily skin or dandruff
  • Weight gain or obesity
  • Pelvic pain
  • Skin tags (excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Anxiety, depression, or eating disorders
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (a severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver)
  • Metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease)

Do any of these signs of PCOS sound all too familiar?  At AZARH, we have the knowledge and experience in treating PCOS.  For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our top Arizona fertility doctors, please call us at (480) 946-9900.