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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

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DIABETES AND ENDOCRINE SYSTEM

Endocrine System

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition most often characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth (hirsutism) and obesity, but it can affect women in different ways. Irregular or heavy periods may signal the condition in adolescence, or PCOS may become apparent later when a woman has difficulty becoming pregnant.

The signs and symptoms of PCOS stem from a disruption in the reproductive cycle, which normally culminates each month with the release of an egg from an ovary (ovulation). The name of the condition comes from the appearance of the ovaries in some women with the disorder - large and studded with numerous cysts (polycystic). These cysts are follicles, fluid-filled sacs that contain immature eggs.

Although the condition has been noted since antiquity, it was first described in medical literature in the 1930s when Irving Stein and Michael Leventhal wrote about a group of women without menstrual periods (amenorrhea) who had large ovaries with multiple cysts. Doctors sometimes call the condition Stein-Leventhal syndrome, polycystic ovaries or polycystic ovary disease.

Early diagnosis and treatment of PCOS can help reduce the risk of long-term complications, which include diabetes and heart disease.

Complications

Women with PCOS are at risk of type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes), high blood pressure, increased triglycerides, decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Because PCOS disrupts the reproductive cycle and exposes the uterus to a constant supply of estrogen, women with PCOS are at risk of abnormal uterine bleeding and cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer).

You may need treatment with medication to become pregnant if you have PCOS. During pregnancy, you may be at increased risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.

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