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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It is characterized by an imbalance of hormones, which can lead to a range of symptoms including irregular periods, excess facial and body hair, acne, and difficulty getting pregnant. PCOS can also increase the risk of developing other health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it is thought to be related to insulin resistance and high levels of androgens (male hormones). Women with PCOS often have high levels of insulin in their bodies, which can cause their ovaries to produce more androgens. These high levels of androgens can interfere with the development and release of eggs during ovulation, leading to irregular periods.

Symptoms of PCOS can vary from person to person, and many women with PCOS may not experience all of the symptoms. Some common symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Irregular periods: Women with PCOS may have infrequent or absent periods, or periods that are very heavy. This can be due to the lack of ovulation or irregular ovulation caused by PCOS.

  • Excess facial and body hair: High levels of androgens can cause excess hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, and back.

  • Acne: PCOS can cause acne due to the high levels of androgens in the body.

  • Difficulty getting pregnant: PCOS can interfere with ovulation, making it difficult for a woman to get pregnant.

  • Weight gain: Women with PCOS are more likely to be overweight or obese, which can be due to insulin resistance and the body's inability to effectively use insulin.

  • Thin hair: High levels of androgens can also cause hair loss on the head.

  • Skin tags: These are small, soft, flesh-colored growths that hang off the skin. They are common in women with PCOS.

  • Darkening of the skin: PCOS can cause dark patches of skin, particularly in the folds of the body such as the neck, underarms, and groin.

  • Depression and anxiety: PCOS can also cause emotional and psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

PCOS can be diagnosed through a physical examination, blood tests, and ultrasound. A pelvic exam can help a healthcare provider determine if there are any signs of excess androgens, such as excess facial and body hair. Blood tests can measure hormone levels and check for insulin resistance. An ultrasound can help visualize the ovaries and check for the presence of cysts.

There is no cure for PCOS, but it can be managed through lifestyle changes, medication, and hormone therapy. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet can help regulate hormone levels and improve symptoms. Medications such as birth control pills and insulin sensitisers can help regulate periods and improve insulin resistance. Hormone therapy can help regulate periods and reduce excess hair growth.

PCOS can be a challenging condition to manage, but with the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage the symptoms and improve overall health. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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