This is a common condition that affects how a woman ovaries work. Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of harmless follicles that are up 8mm (0.3In) in size. The follicles are underdeveloped sacs in which eggs develop. In polycystic ovary syndrome, these sacs are often unable to release an egg, which means ovulation does not take place.
It’s difficult to know exactly how many women have the syndrome, but it’s thought to be very common, affecting 1 in every 5 women in the United Kingdom. More than have of these women do not have any symptoms.
There are three main feature of polycystic ovary syndrome:
- Irregular periods – which means your ovaries do not regularly release eggs (ovulation).
- Excess androgen – high level of male hormones in your body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair.
- Polycystic ovaries – your ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs (but despite the name, you do not actually have cysts if you have the syndrome).
If you’ve at two of the above features, you may be diagnosed with the syndrome.
Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome
If you have signs and symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, they’ll usually become apparent during your late teens or early 20s.
They can include:
- difficulty getting pregnant as a result of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate
- irregular periods or no periods at all
- thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
- weight gain
- oily skin or acne
Polycystic ovary syndrome is also associated with an increased risk of developing health problems in later life, such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
Causes of polycystic ovary syndrome
There is no known cause of polycystic ovary syndrome, but it often runs in families. It’s related to abnormal hormone levels in the body, including levels of insulin. Insulin is hormone that control sugar levels in the body.
Many women with polycystic ovary syndrome are resistant to the action of insulin in their body and produce higher levels of insulin to overcome this. This contribute to the increased production and activity of hormones like testosterone. Being obese or overweight also increase the amount of insulin your body produces.
Treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome
There is no cure for polycystic ovary syndrome, but the symptoms can be treated. Speak to your doctor if you think you may have the condition.
Exercises, losing weight and eating a healthy, balance diet can make some symptoms better.