If you or your teen daughter have noticed a sudden onset of cramping, acne, and hair loss, among other symptoms, it could be due to a little-known hormonal imbalance, called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
This condition may mean a higher risk of other hormone-related diseases or be preventing you from getting pregnant.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS as it is called, is a common condition that affects about 5 million American women of reproductive age. While it may be devastating for family planning, it is a lifelong condition reaching well past the reproductive years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The exact cause of PCOS isn’t known, but what we do know is that it is associated with several other health-adverse conditions,” said Laurie McKechnie, a family nurse practitioner at Lynn Women’s Health.
Here’s what is known about PCOS:
- PCOS runs in families.
- Carrying extra weight is associated with PCOS, but you do not necessarily have to be overweight to have it.
- It often causes irregular periods, which can be one of the first signs.
- Other symptoms of PCOS include facial hair growth.
As it turns out, cysts — sacs of fluid on the ovaries — are just one sign of this complex hormonal condition. The lack of ovarian cysts can lead to a misdiagnosis and an ultrasound is often necessary to make a diagnosis.
“If a woman is having irregular periods she should see a health care provider,” McKechnie said.
The disease seems to be passed down genetically. In affected males, early balding or excessive hairiness can be a sign that the genes have been inherited. In young women, symptoms can vary from being mild to extensive.
PCOS can develop into serious health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and even sleep apnea.
The relationship with extra weight and PCOS is a complicated one. But, generally speaking, losing weight can improve your PCOS.
For more information on PCOS, speak with your health care provider.