When your ovaries fail to correctly make hormones, it can affect you from head to toe. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal problem in women of childbearing age. The condition often is accompanied by other health problems, and can make it hard to get pregnant.
PCOS occurs when faulty hormone levels prevent normal egg development in the ovaries or prevent eggs from being released during ovulation. Often the undeveloped eggs turn into tiny fluid-filled sacs (cysts).
Signs of the condition include:
Irregular or heavy menstrual periods
Hair on the face, chest, stomach, or upper thighs
Patches of thick dark-brown or black skin on the neck, groin, or breasts
The cause of PCOS is unknown, but it may run in families. Women who are overweight may be more likely to develop the condition. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis because women with PCOS have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular problems that may lead to heart attack and stroke. PCOS can also increase a woman’s risk for cancer of the uterine lining.
If you suspect you have PCOS, see a healthcare provider for a physical exam and to discuss your health history. Blood tests can show abnormal hormone levels, as well as help rule out other illnesses. An ultrasound scan can detect cysts. Healthcare providers can use medicine to treat the symptoms that often accompany the disorder.
A combination of a healthy diet and exercise can help control PCOS. Losing just 10% of extra weight can help bring hormone levels into a normal range, making your menstrual cycle more regular.