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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Explained

PCOS - Polycystic Ovary SyndromeWhen a woman goes to her doctor to find out why she is having fertility problems, several tests need to be done. The doctor isn’t going to know what her infertility issue is just by asking her a few questions because there are quite a lot of causes of female infertility. One of the most leading causes of infertility in women is called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

The Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (also known as the Stein-Leventhal Syndrome or Polycystic Ovary Disease) is more widespread than most women realize—especially considering that many women have never even heard of this condition. In fact, PCOS affects an estimated 6% to 10% of women, and most have never even been diagnosed. Most are not even aware that they have the condition.

It sounds unbelievable that one of the leading causes of infertility in women is also a condition about which most women who have it are unaware, but it is true. This is because the symptoms associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome do not generally alarm most women. Except, of course, the infertility—that is alarming. The other symptoms are ones many women just accept as part of life—high blood pressure, acne, thinning scalp hair, irregular menstrual periods, weight problems, and facial hair. Any of those symptoms could be caused by anything—most women wouldn’t run to their doctors demanding tests to find out what is causing those symptoms because most women would look at those symptoms individually, not as being caused by the same condition. But when the infertility issue arises, that is when these women are diagnosed with PCOS.

There are two other symptoms that are a part of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, but these are unnoticeable to most women because they occur inside the body. The first is an elevated insulin level, resistance to insulin, or diabetes. Women would be unaware of this in most cases unless they had a blood test for some reason. The second symptom is having numerous cysts on the ovaries. Women have no way of knowing about this unless they are getting tested for something else—such as getting tested for infertility.

The way PCOS makes a woman infertile has to do with hormones. The insulin problems lead the ovaries to produce too much testosterone. It also causes the adrenal gland to produce too much dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and androstenedione, both of which are sexual hormones. These, in turn, cause an abnormal production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). FSH is a hormone that helps to mature an egg for ovulation; LH triggers the ovulation. Abnormal levels of these disrupt ovulation. These abnormal levels also cause the ovaries to produce too little estrogen and too much testosterone, as well as an aberrant level of progesterone.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome isn’t curable; however, with medications, along with changes in diet and exercise, it may be treatable in some women. For these women, they may be able to defeat the infertility caused by their PCOS--they may be able to achieve conception.

 
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