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REACH Blog: Fertility Journey

10 Things Every Woman Should Know About PCOS

September 27, 2017
By REACH Fertility Experts

September marks PCOS Awareness Month and presents an opportunity to raise worldwide public awareness of polycystic ovarian syndrome.  It is also an opportunity for women diagnosed with PCOS to get clear information and support through educational resources and outreach.  Think you may suffer from PCOS?  Check out the list below for more information:

  • PCOS is the leading cause of infertility among women!
  • PCOS is an endocrine disorder that affects over 7 million women worldwide.  That’s more than the number of people diagnosed with breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus combined.
  • The cause of PCOS is still unknown, but the main underlying problem of this condition is a hormone imbalance from the ovaries making too many androgens (male hormones) than they are supposed to.  High levels of these hormones affect the development of eggs and how they are released during ovulation. 
  • Researchers believe that insulin, a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body to use or store, is also linked to PCOS.  It is common for women who have PCOS to have increased levels of insulin which appears to also increase the production of androgen. 
  • Women with PCOS have three characteristic symptoms which include infrequent, absent, and/or irregular menstrual periods, excess androgens (measured in the blood or seen through symptoms such as excess hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes), and polycystic ovaries (detected through an ultrasound). Women are diagnosed with PCOS when they have at least two of these symptoms.
  • Obesity is a common denominator in women with PCOS, and nearly 60% of women with PCOS are obese.  This is likely due to the hormonal imbalances that can lead to weight gain.  
  • Because women with PCOS are prone to developing insulin resistance, they are also at a higher risk to develop Type 2 diabetes.  All women with PCOS should be screened for insulin resistance.
  • Women who lose weight from diet and exercise can help improve ovulation patterns and fertility and lower their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Other common symptoms of PCOS can include the following:
    • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
    • Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
    • Pelvic pain
    • Skin tags (excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area)
    • Sleep apnea
    • Anxiety or depression
  • Infertility caused by PCOS is first treated with one of two oral medications - clomiphene citrate or letrozole.  If unsuccessful, injected fertility medication called gonadotropins may be given to stimulate the growth of an egg.  IVF (in vitro fertilization) may also help women with PCOS get pregnant if other treatments do not work.

If you have been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant or think you may have PCOS, we can help.  For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our top fertility specialists at either our Charlotte or Lake Norman fertility clinic, please call REACH today at (888) 551-0874. 

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