What is Polycystic ovary syndrome?
PCOS is the abbreviated form of the medical condition that is known as the polycystic ovary syndrome, but it is also known by many other names such as polycystic ovary disease (PCOD), functional ovarian hyperandrogenism, Stein-Leventahl syndrome, ovarian hyperthecosis and sclerocystic ovary syndrome. PCOS is classified as an endocrine disorder as it is characterized by the woman’s hormone imbalanced with excessive quantities of androgenic (masculinizing) hormones. Its symptoms can appear at any time during the woman’s reproductive years but they most often appear during the teen years and if gone untreated, PCOS can lead to altered appearances as well as contribute to grave medical difficulties such as coronary heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes and strokes.
With one out of every fifteen women being affected, PCOS is considered to be the most frequently occurring hormonal malady and it is counted among the top causes of infertility in woman.
Symptoms of PCOS
Due to the fact that the symptoms of PCOS are wide and varied as is their severity, PCOS is not an easy condition to diagnose. The following list includes the most commonly occurring symptoms associated with PCOS:
- Recurring flare-ups of acne.
- Gaining weight and difficulty losing it (obesity).
- The appearance of masculine facial and body hair (hirsutism).
- Male-like thinning of hair (alopecia).
- Irregular, skipped or no menstrual periods.
- Irregularity of ovulation which can lead to infertility.
- Skin growths (tags) and brown skin patches (acanthosis nigricans).
- Depression, fatigue, loss of mental alertness.
- Developing many benign cysts on the ovaries and thus this disorder gets its name — polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Thickening of the voice as it begins to resemble that of men.
- Diminished sex drive.
Causes and Risks of PCOS
The exact causes of PCOS have not been identified but medical research and case studies show that PCOS tends to be passed down from one generation to another and therefore heredity is a factor. Also, researchers have found strong links between PCOS and metabolic conditions such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), atherosclerosis and obesity as well as endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer.
Conventional medicine divides treatments for PCOS into four key categories:
- a) Lowering the insulin levels with low carbohydrate weight loss diets, exercise routines and medications to boost ovulation;
- b) Restoring fertility with drug therapy to encourage ovulation and various assisted reproductive technology;
- c) Treating hirsutism and acne is effective with the use of hormonal therapy of progestogen with anti androgen effects which abort the effects of the male hormones; and
- d) Restoration of regular menstruation while stopping the development of endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer with the use of hormone therapy as is available in contraceptive (birth control) pills or progestogen taken orally or as a uterine implant.
Alternatively, to treat PCOS and its clinical symptoms collectively, D-chiro-inositol (DCI) has been recently tested and proven effective. Since it is not a drug but a naturally occurring substance in the human metabolic system, it is considered to be a supplemental nutrient and has no known adverse side effects.