What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome ?
Also known commonly as PCOS, it is a common yet complex condition affecting up to 1 - 1.8 in 10 women of child bearing age.
What causes PCOS?
Unfortunately, the cause of PCOS is unknown but it often runs in families. There is an association with excess insulin production, which can cause difficulty with ovulation.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
If you only have Polycystic Ovaries, it doesn't mean you have PCOS. A diagnosis for PCOS means you need to have any two of the following:
1. Polycystic ovaries (either 12 or more or increased ovarian volume)
2. Irregular or infrequent periods or not ovulating
3. Physical signs of high androgen levels or via blood test.
What symptoms can present with PCOS?
PCOS can present itself in many different ways, but commonly with irregular periods. Some women may have difficulty conceiving and/or features of high androgen levels such as excessive hair generally including on face, chest, abdomen etc, and acne
How do you treat PCOS?
Treatment is different for every woman with PCOS, it depends on your concerns. Is it your irregular periods? Or are you trying to fall pregnant? Or is it the excessive testosterone levels?
Generally, not all patients with PCOS will need medical treatment. Having a healthy lifestyle is actually the best way to manage PCOS. This includes:
1. Eating a healthy and balanced diet.
2. Exercise regularly (30 minutes a day)
3. Maintain a healthy weight. Losing 5-10% of your weight (if overweight, this can greatly reduce your symptoms)
4. Regular checks with your local GP (and gynaecologist if necessary). You should have a metabolic check with your GP regularly - Bp, lipid profile and monitoring for diabetes.
Many studies have also shown that there is a higher risk of depression, anxiety and negative impacts on quality of life, and therefore it is very important to speak to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
Generally, it is reassuring to know that most women with PCOS can manage their symptoms and long term health risks without medical intervention. If you were planning to fall pregnant, it might be good to have a check with your GP before falling pregnant, and if you have been actively trying for more than 12 months with no success, consider seeing your gynaecologist for help.
For more information, Jean Hailes and POSAA are not-for-profit and are great resources.
Dr Adeline Chan is a female obstetrician and gynaecologist in Sydney servicing the North West Sydney area. She delivers babies and performs procedures at Norwest Private Hospital and Westmead Private Hospital.
For all appointments and enquiries, please call our friendly staff at 02 9629 3559 or leave us a message on our contact form.