Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a common condition affecting millions of women’s health in the UK. PCOS affects how your ovaries function.

If you have two of the following three PCOS features, then you will probably be diagnosed as having the condition:

  • Polycystic ovaries (where the cysts have developed in your ovaries)
  • Ovulation difficulties (where your ovaries do not release eggs regularly)
  • High levels of androgens (the so-called male hormones) in your system


Your IPSA PCOS consultation

At your IPSA clinic, a female IPSA practitioner will carry out your PCOS consultation immediately, in our calm and confidential clinic. At IPSA, your doctor will always take your PCOS symptoms seriously, and she will treat you with IPSA’s person-centred, holistic approach, where both your family history/lifestyle will be discussed with you so that your IPSA practitioner can best assess your condition. If you are worried about your chances of conception, your IPSA practitioner can refer you immediately to the IPSA fertility clinic.


Tests for PCOS

At your IPSA consultation, you may be offered bloods tests or an ultrasound scan for confirmation of a PCOS diagnosis.


What are Polycystic Ovaries?

Polycystic ovaries have many harmless cysts inside them. These harmless cysts, which are under-developed sacs, can be up to 8mm in diameter. Eggs develop in these sacs, but when you have PCOS, the sacs are often not able to release the eggs. This means that you do not ovulate.


Signs and symptoms of PCOS

It is thought that approximately 1 in 5 UK women has polycystic ovaries, yet more than half will have no symptoms.

For those who do experience PCOS symptoms, it is often in the late teens/early twenties that these symptoms become apparent. The symptoms to watch out for can include:

  • No periods or irregular periods
  • Problems conceiving (due to irregular ovulation or ovulation failure)
  • Excess hair growth, known as Hirsutism (with the excess hair usually appearing on the chest, back, face or buttocks)
  • Putting on weight
  • Hair thinning/loss of hair
  • Acne or oily/greasy skin

Speak to your IPSA physician if you have any of these symptoms and suspect that you might have PCOS.


Why it happens

PCOS often runs in the family, but its exact cause is unknown.

There is an association between PCOS and abnormal hormone levels. Insulin levels have been found to be high in women with PCOS. The insulin hormone works to control the levels of sugar in your body. Too much insulin leads to the increased activity and production of some hormones like testosterone.

Additionally, if you are overweight, your body produces more insulin.


Risks in later life

If you do have PCOS, then you are a higher risk of developing additional health problems as you get older. Women presenting with PCOS have a higher chance of developing:


  • Type 2 diabetes (where your blood sugar levels are too high)
  • Depression/mood swings (as your self-esteem and confidence can be affected by the PCOS symptoms)
  • High cholesterol and high blood pressure (these can lead to strokes and heart disease)
  • Sleep apnoea (this can develop in women who are overweight and it causes your breathing to be interrupted when sleeping)


Treatments for PCOS

PCOS symptoms can be treated, but there is no cure for the condition at present.

Losing weight combined with a healthy diet is recommended for those women with PCOS who are overweight, as this can help to reduce some of the common weight-related symptoms.

Symptoms such as irregular periods, fertility issues and excessive hair growth can be treated with medication.

You may be offered hormonal treatment at the IPSA clinic to help control the pain and minimise the size of your cysts. The many options available for managing PCOS will be explained to you during your IPSA PCOS consultation and the best management plan for your PCOS will be discussed with you and then chosen.


Fertility and PCOS

To maximise your likelihood of conception when you have PCOS, early referral to our IPSA fertility clinic is recommended, as, following treatment, most women with PCOS can get pregnant.

Immediate referral to our IPSA fertility clinic will be offered to you by your IPSA doctor if you are worried about your chances of conception.

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