Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which a woman's hormones are out of balance. It can cause problems with your periods and make it difficult to get pregnant. PCOS may affect the way you look and can be associated with a variety of health problems including diabetes, hyperlipidemia and high blood pressure (hypertension). PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder of reproductive age women, occurring in over 7% of women at some point in their lifetime. It usually develops during the teen years. Treatment for PCOS can assist women attempting to conceive, help control the symptoms, and prevent long-term health problems.
The most common cause of PCOS is glucose intolerance resulting in abnormally high insulin levels. If a woman does not respond normally to insulin, her blood sugar levels rise triggering the body to produce more insulin. The insulin stimulates your ovaries to produce male sex hormones called androgens. Testosterone is a common androgen and is often elevated in women with PCOS. These androgens block the development and maturation of a woman's ovarian follicles preventing ovulation resulting in irregular menses and infertility. Androgens may also trigger development of acne and extra facial and body hair. It will increase lipids in the blood. The elevated blood sugar from insulin resistance can develop into diabetes.Symptoms
PCOS symptoms may vary but the most common are acne, weight gain, extra hair on the face and body, thinning of hair on the scalp, irregular periods and infertility. Ovaries develop numerous small follicles that look like cysts hence the name polycystic ovary syndrome. These cysts themselves are not harmful but in response to fertility treatment can result in a condition known as Hyperstimulation syndrome. Hyperstimulation syndrome involves ovarian swelling, fluid accumulating in the belly, the entire body, and occasionally around the lungs.
A woman with Hyperstimulation syndrome may become dehydrated increasing her risk of developing blood clots. Becoming pregnant adds to the stimulation and exacerbates the condition leading many specialists to cancel cycles in which a woman is at high risk of developing Hyperstimulation. They may also prescribe aspirin to prevent clot formation.
These cysts may lead to many eggs maturing in response to fertility treatment also placing patients at a high risk of developing a high order multiple pregnancy in non-IVF cycles. Due to this risk, it may be advantageous to avoid aggressive stimulation of the ovaries unless the eggs are removed as part of the in vitro fertilization procedure.