Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, known as PCOS, affects thousands of women each year.
And with celebrity couples like Jamie and Jools Oliver and David and Victoria Beckham speaking out about their own fertility struggles due to PCOS, it’s becoming much more talked about.
But despite that, many of us still don’t understand what the condition actually is and what affect it can have on our health.
Here, TLL spoke to fertility and PCOS specialist Dr Israel Ortega from world leading clinic IVI Fertility to find out more about PCOS.
What is PCOS?
“PCOS is a hormone-related problem caused by small cysts growing on a woman’s ovaries, which subsequently cause a hormone imbalance. This imbalance causes problems with the regularity of women’s periods, and can also cause problems for women when trying to get pregnant. If not treated effectively, PCOS can also open the door to some more serious health concerns such as diabetes and heart disease.”
What causes PCOS?
Unfortunately, the medical world is still unsure as to what causes the condition.
Dr Ortega explains that it’s widely considered to have a genetic link but this is yet to be scientifically proven.
“We also know that many women suffering from PCOS are found to have a hormone imbalance which is likely to be a contributing factor. In particular, women with PCOS are known to have raised levels of testosterone, Prolactin and LH, and are often deficient in SHBG – which also increases the effect of testosterone.”
What are the main symptoms of PCOS?
They vary from woman to woman and some will suffer from more severe symptoms than others. But the most common PCOS symptoms include:
– Difficulty in getting pregnant due to a lack of ovulation
– Weight gain
– Irregular periods
– Hair loss from the head
– Excessive hair growth all over the body
“In addition to the most common symptoms listed above, women suffering from PCOS can also find themselves susceptible to some more serious health problems later in life such as type two diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, depression and sleep apnoea.”
What should I do if I think I have PCOS?
“If you are suffering from any of the symptoms associated with PCOS then in the first instance it is advisable that you book in to see your GP who will be able to carry out the necessary checks and rule out any other conditions. In some cases, they might also carry out an ultrasound scan, and/or a blood test as part of the exploration process. Following a diagnosis you may be referred to a PCOS specialist who will be able to help advise you on the best way to manage the symptoms.”
How is PCOS treated?
“Sadly, there is no cure for PCOS however, there are a number of ways in which patients can manage their symptoms effectively,” advises Dr Ortega.
“In some cases, a weight loss programme may be advised to help reduce the effect of PCOS. Studies have shown that in overweight women, a decrease of just 5% of their body mass can have a positive impact on PCOS.
“For those suffering from missed or irregular periods it is often advisable to go on the contraceptive pill which can help to regulate a cycle.
“If you’re trying to get pregnant and suffer from PCOS then it is recommended that you visit a fertility specialist who will be able to check if there are any further problems, such as blocked fallopian tubes, before advising on the best cause of medication. Clomifene is often prescribed in the first instance and is used to encourage the regular release of an egg from the ovaries. If this medication is found to be unsuccessful, then there are a number of other options which can be considered.”