Understanding PCOS-Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

An article in the November 24th edition of the New York Times highlights the most common hormonal condition that affects women’s reproductive function: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, better known as PCOS.

First described in 1935, PCOS was initially called Stein-Leventhal syndrome, for the two American gynecologists who identified it, Dr. Irving F. Stein Sr. and Dr. Michael L. Leventhal. They recognized that ovarian cysts can interrupt ovulation and cause infertility in significant numbers of women. Irregular menstrual cycles and difficulty conceiving are among the most common symptoms, the result of ovarian follicles that fail to mature fully and to release eggs. Affected women often have enlarged ovaries and, when menses does occur, prolonged bleeding.

According to the so-called Rotterdam criteria, a woman with any two of the following conditions may have the condition:

■ Symptoms of elevated levels of androgens, or male sex hormones, which can include acne, excessive hairiness and sometimes male-pattern hair loss.

■ Irregular menses, with prolonged periods between cycles.

■ Twelve or more follicular cysts on the ovaries, as seen on an ultrasound.

insulin resistance could be the underlying factor responsible for the disparate symptoms of PCOS.

In people resistant to insulin, the hormone does not effectively transfer glucose from blood to body cells to be used for energy. As blood levels of glucose build, more insulin is produced to try to lower it.

Excess insulin promotes fat storage and can result in weight gain and obesity. About half of American women with PCOS are obese. Insulin also can stimulate the ovaries to produce androgens.

The article goes into detail about how to treat the various problems caused by PCOS. At RPMG we are experienced in treating all aspects of this condition especially the infertility caused by ovulation problems.

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