While estrogen is known as the predominant female hormone and androgen the predominant male hormone, in reality, females do have some androgen levels in their bodies.
When androgen levels become too high in a woman’s body one has to suspect polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) as the cause.
The number of women in their childbearing years affected by polycystic ovarian syndrome is estimated to be 10 percent. It is a frequent cause of female infertility. Genetics play a role in developing polycystic ovarian syndrome as does diet and general health. Contact a skilled doctor if you are looking to learn more about polycystic ovarian syndrome treatment options.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome occurs in women of reproductive age, but certain symptoms may continue even past menopause. Symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome include:
- Dark skin markings on the groin, underarms, or neck
- Difficulty conceiving
- Enlarged clitoris
- Excess or infrequent menstrual periods
- Excess hair growth, on the body or face
- Mood swings
- Pelvic pain
Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes as they age, and the miscarriage rate is higher as well. Their risk for uterine cancer is greater than the general population.
Diagnosing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Diagnosing polycystic ovarian syndrome includes a thorough physical examination and when feasible, a pelvic exam. Along with a medical history, a doctor will order blood tests to assess hormone levels. Typically, menstrual cycles are irregular due to a failure to ovulate.
Estrogen levels tend to be constantly low while testosterone levels may be high, resulting in acne and facial hair growth as well. Resistance to insulin is characteristic of PCOS which causes inordinate weight gain and may require medications to regulate blood sugar. Substantial weight loss in an obese woman can result in more regular periods.
Your physician may order a pelvic ultrasound to assess the ovaries and uterus. As the name implies, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome develop cysts on the ovaries. However, it is important to realize having ovarian cysts does not make the diagnosis of PCOS. It is primarily a clinical and laboratory diagnosis.
Various treatments exist for polycystic ovarian syndrome. The patient and her physician together decide upon the best course of action after the diagnosis is made. Oral contraceptives can relieve symptoms and make menstrual periods regular. When pregnancy is desired, medications which induce ovulation are appropriate.
In instances where excessive hair growth or acne are problematic, this adverse effect of testosterone on the skin can be blocked with simple medications without resorting to oral contraceptives.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Infertility
Women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome ovulate infrequently – or not at all – so the opportunity for conception becomes limited. Women with milder symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome may not even know there is a problem until they fail to conceive. Women with PCOS have higher rates of miscarriage if they do get pregnant and must be followed closely by their obstetrician.
In some difficult cases, ovarian surgery to disrupt the numerous cysts can induce regular ovulation. Surgical success does not guarantee a long-term outcome, and a successful outcome may require the addition of other non-surgical therapies. Fortunately, many women with polycystic ovarian syndrome will eventually conceive and have children.
Contacting Dr. Jacobson
If you suspect you may suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome, call Dr. Edward Jacobson’s office today to make an appointment.