Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Understanding PCOS

If you are suspected of having PCOS, try not to worry too much. It is a common hormone condition affecting young women. Symptoms related to PCOS usually develop during puberty, but you may not develop symptoms until later in adulthood. PCOS does not just affect you ovaries but can also cause other hormone and metabolic imbalances like pre-diabetes.

Common symptoms

If you have PCOS, common symptoms that you may notice include irregular periods, for example, you might have fewer than nine periods a year, with more than 35 days between periods. Your periods may be heavy and prolonged when they occur. Your symptoms may be worse if you are carrying excess weight. You may notice excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), and acne. Thinning of your scalp hair can sometimes occur. If you have PCOS you may notice that you gain weight more easily and this may link to your metabolism. This is because if you have PCOS it is more common to have an imbalance called insulin resistance which can inhibit fat burning in your body.

If you are not having regular periods, you may not be releasing eggs every month and this can make it take longer to fall pregnant. This is not because of a lack of eggs but rather they are locked in your ovaries. If your eggs are locked in you may have a later menopause, as your eggs last longer!

If you have PCOS and find it difficult to fall pregnant, you may be given medication to encourage an egg to be released (induction of ovulation) to help you fall pregnant.

How am I diagnosed?

You will need a medical check and some tests to diagnose you with PCOS. Many specialists use an assessment called the Rotterdam criteria to diagnose PCOS. You may be tested to exclude other hormone conditions that can affect the periods. Your blood tests in PCOS usually show a typical picture of hormone imbalance. Your ovaries may contain multiple cysts which can be seen on a scan. If you have PCOS you may be more likely to develop cholesterol problems and pre-diabetes so checking for these at baseline is useful. Scans of your pelvis often, but not always, show polycystic ovaries.

The treatment that you are given will depend on your individual needs. You might want to regulate your periods, reduce acne or excess hair growth or you may want to fall pregnant. Your symptoms and treatment focus may also be different at different times in your life.

An early diagnosis is better for you, so you know what you are dealing with and have a treatment plan. If you have a healthy lifestyle you are likely to have less symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce your risk of long-term complications.

General information

Here is some more patient information about PCOS

Here is a link to the brilliant patient support group Verity

Hormone Facts & Information