What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone disorder. It is the most common endocrine condition in females of reproductive age in the United States (US). It is also one of the leading causes of infertility in women in the US. The exact underlying cause is still unknown; however, medical professionals have discovered a genetic component. Those with other known family members who have PCOS are more likely to also have the condition. Unfortunately, approximately 5 to 6 million women (about twice the population of Arkansas) in the US still live with undiagnosed PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS often vary widely both in the physical ailments and the severity of those symptoms.
- Excessive androgenic effects: This includes high blood testosterone level, acne, and excess hair growth.
- Problems with ovulation: This may include having no menstrual periods, irregular menstrual cycles, and infertility.
- Ovarian issues: Many develop enlarged ovaries with fluid-filled sacs (cysts), leading to pain and other issues.
- Insulin resistance: This can cause an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
If your provider believes you have PCOS, they might order labs and testing to investigate. Some of these primary labs include:
- Testosterone: These values are typically elevated in PCOS.
- Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG): These levels may be reduced in PCOS.
- Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH): These values are often elevated in PCOS.
More information might be needed, so do not be alarmed if your provider orders further tests. Sometimes the tests below are completed at the same time as the tests listed above, and other times, they are ordered afterward.
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): Can be normal or low with PCOS.
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH): Will be elevated with PCOS.
- Estrogens: May be normal or elevated with PCOS.
- DHEAS: These values are often elevated in PCOS.
- Androstenedione: May be elevated in PCOS.
Currently, there is no cure for PCOS. Medications and treatment options usually focus on a patient’s specific symptoms, other health issues, and family planning goals. Usually, weight loss and regulation are an important part of PCOS treatment. Still, it is important to acknowledge that PCOS can also cause insulin resistance, making weight loss very difficult. This can be rightfully frustrating for many women with PCOS. Therefore, it is important to find a provider that understands the challenges and works with you to help you succeed!
Today, long-term treatment often involves using combined oral contraceptive pills or progestins to regulate the menstrual cycle and treat other PCOS symptoms. Anti-estrogen medications, other hormones, and metformin may also be used. In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that a supplement called Ovasitol, which is made of myo-inositol and D-chiro inositol, may help improve ovarian function and possibly help fertility in women with PCOS. Although many women report success with Ovasitol, more studies are ongoing, and the jury is still out. If you have PCOS and are currently trying to conceive, please know that your process might take longer, and you may need to see a reproductive specialist to help you succeed.
Sending Cysters a Hug:
PCOS is a life-changing diagnosis and an invisible disorder, but PCOS does not have to ruin your life. With early detection, lifestyle changes, and the right medications for those who need them, you can experience major improvements. Advocate for yourself, and work with a provider that listens to you to regain control of your cycle and live a happier and healthier life!
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) — ACOG
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) — Lab Tests Online
- Which Hormone Tests for the Diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome? — PubMed (nih.gov)
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Diagnosis and Treatment — Mayo Clinic
- Effects of Myo-Inositol in Women with PCOS: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials — PubMed (nih.gov)