Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects hormone levels in women. It is largely characterized by a hormone imbalance with higher levels of “male” hormones, such as testosterone. As a condition that affects the function of the ovaries, it also has an impact on levels of female reproductive hormones – particularly estrogen and progesterone.
The presence of fluid-filled sacs, also known as cysts, on the ovaries can indicate PCOS. These sacs contain eggs that have not been able to mature, which has a knock on the effect of ovulation. This usually means that levels of female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are lower than normal, while “male” hormones are higher.
PCOS can be diagnosed without the presence of these cysts, but it is possible to have cysts on the ovaries without having PCOS. The hormone imbalance that is typically associated with PCOS can affect the menstrual cycle. Many women with PCOS have infrequent periods, and for some, menstruation ceases altogether. Because ovulation occurs less frequently, fertility can also be affected.
Other symptoms linked to hormone imbalance can also occur, including insulin resistance, weight gain, acne, excess hair on the face and body, and hair loss. PCOS is likely to be diagnosed if two out of the following three criteria are present: high “male” hormone levels, menstrual irregularities, and cysts on the ovaries (1).
|Some Common Symptoms of PCOS|
*Talk to your healthcare professional or doctor about your symptoms or questions.
The exact causes of PCOS are not currently known. It is thought that higher levels of male hormones may be involved in disrupting the function of the ovaries and altering hormone production and ovulation.
Many women with PCOS experience insulin resistance (2). This affects the way that the body uses insulin and encourages higher levels of insulin to be produced. This can then lead to higher levels of male hormones. Inflammation can also occur in PCOS (3). High levels of inflammation can also affect production of male hormones. Some studies have suggested that PCOS may have a genetic link (4). This may involve more than one gene (5).
Many women with PCOS are overweight, which also increases the risk factor for developing high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol (and low HDL cholesterol), all of which are markers for metabolic syndrome. PCOS can, therefore, raise the risk factor for other conditions, including diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
Because the endometrial lining does not shed as often as normal in PCOS, there can also be a higher chance of developing endometrial cancer (6). The combination of hormonal changes and the physical effects of PCOS can result in depression. Many women with PCOS are affected by anxiety and depression (7).
Because PCOS symptoms can vary significantly, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.
|Some Treatment Options Can Include:|
Lifestyle changes can sometimes improve PCOS symptoms. For women who are overweight, losing 5-10% body weight can help to balance hormones and lower markers for metabolic syndrome (9). Low GI (glycemic index) diets have shown particular promise in helping to regulate the menstrual cycle (10).
You should always consult your health care provider before starting any herbal supplements or products. *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.