Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can affect women during their reproductive years. It usually develops when you begin menstruating, but it can also start later in life, especially if you’ve had significant weight gain.
The signs of PCOS can vary, but it typically involves at least two of these issues:
- Infrequent, irregular, or prolonged periods
- Physical changes like excess facial or body hair, severe acne, or male-pattern baldness
- Enlarged ovaries covered in small cysts
But PCOS affects more than your reproductive health; it can also lead to other conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, endometrial cancer, and obesity. It’s also common to experience mood disorders like anxiety and depression because of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Brandon M. Lingenfelter, DO, PhD, is an experienced OB/GYN providing expert care for women with PCOS in Princeton, West Virginia. By taking steps to manage your condition, Dr. Lingenfelter can help protect your overall health.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
When you hear the term polycystic ovary syndrome, it’s easy to focus on your ovaries alone. But this complex disorder affects your hormones, metabolism, and reproductive system.
The main symptom of PCOS is a hormonal imbalance because you have high levels of androgens. While they’re typically called male hormones, women can make androgens, too. Having high levels of androgens causes the physical changes associated with PCOS, like excessive hair growth, weight gain, acne, and balding. If you have high androgens, you can also have problems ovulating.
In addition to hormone imbalance, PCOS can also affect your insulin. Your insulin controls the glucose your body uses for energy. When you have PCOS, it’s common for you to have too much insulin in your system, which can increase androgen production. Having too much insulin also increases your chances of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Signs of metabolic syndrome include:
- High blood pressure
- Low levels of good cholesterol (HDL)
- High levels of bad cholesterol (LDL)
- A waist circumference over 35 inches
- High levels of blood sugar
These symptoms increase your risk of heart disease and heart attack.
When you have PCOS, your ovaries can develop tiny cysts filled with fluid that interfere with ovulation. Your ovaries make your eggs, and as an egg grows, a follicle on the surface of your ovary builds up until it breaks open to release your mature egg during ovulation. PCOS prevents your ovary from making all of the hormones needed to support an egg through development.
So, while your follicles may start to grow, they may not release eggs. In many cases, these growths remain on your ovaries as cysts. Without ovulation, your ovaries also don’t make progesterone, which causes an irregular or absent period.
There isn’t a cure for PCOS, but Dr. Lingenfelter can help manage your condition to ward off long-term complications. After diagnosing PCOS, Dr. Lingenfelter works closely with you to develop a treatment strategy personalized to your individual needs and reproductive goals.
The first step of controlling PCOS involves lifestyle modifications to control your weight and blood sugar, such as:
- Increasing regular exercise
- Following a healthy diet that limits high sugar and processed foods
- Lowering blood sugar levels by eating more whole-grain foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins
In addition to managing your weight and blood sugar, Dr. Lingenfelter might also recommend treatments like birth control or fertility medications. If you have Type 2 diabetes, Dr. Lingenfelter could suggest drugs to help control your blood sugar and lower androgen production.
To learn more about how polycystic ovary syndrome can affect your overall health, call Dr. Lingenfelter or schedule an appointment online today.