Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

PCOS is one of the most common hormonal syndromes affecting women. It is estimated that approximately half a million Australian women suffer with PCOS affecting 12% – 18 % of women of reproductive age.

Women with PCOS usually have ovaries larger than normal where the ovaries have follicles that fail to produce eggs which can be fertilized. Follicles (cysts) in the ovaries may be seen via an ultrasound yet not all of these women will have PCOS.

It is important when speaking with your doctor to fully disclose any symptoms you may have, even if they appear unrelated:

  • Weight gain
  • Facial and body hair,
  • Anxiety or depression,
  • Risk of diabetes
  • Irregular periods, or no period
  • Fertility problems

Unfortunately there is not a single test for PCOS but an experienced and skilled doctor can piece together symptoms plus order a number of tests for the final diagnosis. A transvaginal ultrasound will assess if you have enlarged ovaries or multiple follicles/cysts.

Blood tests will also be ordered for levels of insulin resistance and high levels of androgens. Treatment may include the oral contraceptive pill to control irregular periods, heavy bleeding, and contraception, reduce excess hair growth, acne, to regulate your cycle and to lessen the thickness of the uterus lining. Infertility medications such as Clomid may be taken to assist ovulation.

Management of PCOS may include lifestyle modifications, weight reduction and treatment with hormones or medications. Research has shown that even a five to 10 per cent loss of weight in those who are overweight can restore normal hormone production and help regulate periods and improve fertility.

Your gynaecologist will fully explain the effects of PCOS and its symptoms and advise on treatments. A multidisciplinary approach to treatment is necessary as there are many symptoms and all need to be addressed to prevent long term health problems.

As there is a link between PCOS and developing diabetes, it is important to follow your gynaecologist’s recommendations. As PCOS is a long term condition it requires long term management.