What Causes Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

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Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS occurs when a woman’s hormones become out of balance. It can cause many issues with the woman’s body, such as issues with the menstrual cycle as well as infertility.

At times it can even alter the way a woman looks. If PCO goes untreated, serious health problems can occur, such as diabetes and heart disease.

1. What does it look like?

Women with PCOS typically develop cysts on their ovaries, hence why it is called polycystic ovary syndrome. Although the cysts themselves are not harmful, their presence can lead to hormonal imbalances that cause the issues that are related to the syndrome.

hormonal-imbalance

It is important that diagnosis is made early and that treatment begins quickly. This is the best way to avoid health issues in the future and to control any symptoms that the woman is having at the moment.

2. What does it do to the hormones?

PCOS causes the hormones to become unbalanced and begins working like a chain reaction; once one hormone is out of balance another will quickly follow suit. For example, when the sex hormones become out of balance, they change the way a woman’s ovaries produce androgens; the male sex hormone, which is normally produced in small amounts.

Side effects of losing this element are facial and body hair growth, acne and the ovulation cycle to be disrupted. Another issue that is common with PCOS is problems with insulin. The syndrome may cause a problem in the body called insulin resistance.

PCOS-causes

This is an issue with actually using insulin and when we don’t receive enough of it, our blood sugar levels will rise. If this continues, we are at an increased chance of developing diabetes in the future.

3. What Causes It?

It is still unknown as to the direct cause of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. However, there are some things that doctors believe may contribute to having it.

Excess Insulin

This hormone is produced in the pancreas and is the item that allows cells to use glucose. Since glucose is your body’s primary energy source, having a resistance to insulin only makes the pancreas work harder to make sure that the body has enough glucose to function.

excess-insulin-causes-PCOS

It is believed that an excess of insulin may affect the ovaries. The ovaries could be affected by an increase of androgen production, which may make it difficult for them to ovulate.

Inflammation

Studies have shown that women with PCOS also have low-grade inflammation. White blood cells produce things that help our bodies to fight infection. This response is referred to as inflammation. The type of low-grade inflammation that is found in women with PCOS has been shown to stimulate polycystic ovaries to produce androgens.

PCOS-affects-the-way-the-ovaries-work

Heredity

Although it is not proven, it appears that PCOS may run in the family. The chances are greater if your mother or sister has PCOS and researchers are now conducting studies in order to determine if there are certain genes that can be linked to the disorder. It also appears that PCOS can be passed down from your father’s side as well as your mothers.

4. What are the symptoms?

Most symptoms that you will first notice are fairly mild. Most women only report a few of them at first. The most common are, weight gain or trouble losing weight, depression, acne, problems with fertility, irregular periods, thinning hair on the scalp and excess body hair.

irregular-period-affects-fertility

If your doctor believes that you may have PCOS, there are a number of ways that he can test for it. He will probably conduct one of the following tests in order to confirm his suspicions:

  • Build a medical history involving information about your symptoms, menstrual cycles and past health
  • Complete a physical exam
  • Complete lab tests and check hormone levels
  • Order a pelvic ultrasound

5. Conclusion

Although the cause of PCOS is unknown, there are certain suspicions as to the origin of the syndrome. If it is caught early, treatment is available, so it is important that you talk to your doctor about any concerns that you may be having. It is best to keep an eye on your overall health and to schedule an annual exam to help deal with any issues that have surfaced throughout the year.

Ms. Wisniewski has over 15 years experience as a labor and delivery nurse, having also worked previously as a nurse midwife in the Philippines and India. She enjoys empowering women and providing family centered care to women from all cultural and educational backgrounds.