Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the more common hormonal disorders that affect women who are capable of reproduction. The syndrome involves the ovaries becoming enlarged and the formation of a number of small cysts all around their outer edges. This can lead to a number of different issues, including irregular menstrual periods, and it can also make it very difficult for the woman to become pregnant. While treating the condition, especially if caught early, can help reduce the risk of some complications, it may not be possible to completely cure polycystic ovary syndrome.

The reproductive cycle is not actually controlled by the ovaries; instead, the pituitary gland begins releasing specific hormones that tell the reproductive system to begin growing an egg and then later tell it when to release the egg. The ovaries then secrete estrogen and progesterone that tell the uterus to prepare its inner lining for the egg. If no pregnancy occurs, the ovaries stop secreting these hormones and the uterus sheds its lining during the menstrual cycle.

However, in polycystic ovary syndrome, this chain of events does not occur in the way it should. Instead, the pituitary gland starts to secrete too much luteinizing hormone. This hormone tells the ovaries to create androgen, which is actually a male hormone. Androgen is produced during the menstrual cycle, and it’s perfectly normal for a woman’s ovaries to make a small amount of this male hormone. However, the increased luteinizing hormone stimulates the ovaries to produce too much androgen. This causes the menstrual cycle to become irregular and can lead to other symptoms.

Unfortunately, doctors do not know the exact reason why the pituitary gland starts to secrete so much of this hormone, but they have identified two factors that are connected to it. One is heredity—it’s possible that a specific mutated gene is connected to polycystic ovary syndrome and that a woman is more likely to have the syndrome if her mother or one of her sisters does.

Another factor is the production of excess insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is what allows the body to break down and use glucose (sugar). If your body becomes insulin resistant, it can’t use insulin as effectively, and the pancreas has to create more and more insulin to achieve the same affect. The extra insulin may possibly cause the ovaries to produce more androgen. More study on both of these two risk factors needs to be done, however, before any conclusion can be reached.

Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome usually appear after a girl has her first period, although it is possible for the syndrome to develop later on in life. This can happen due to changes in your body—for example, gaining a good amount of weight can bring on polycystic ovary syndrome. The symptoms may vary in severity, and not all women will experience the same. However, to be diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a woman must have two of the following three symptoms.

The most common symptom is abnormal menstruation. This can include intervals of more than 35 days, few menstrual cycles, not menstruating for four months, or very light or very heavy periods. Elevated androgen levels are another sign and can actually cause your body to grow facial hair or excess body hair. You may also experience adult acne. The third symptom is polycystic ovaries. Having enlarged ovaries with cysts in them does not necessarily mean you have polycystic ovary syndrome, however—you have to have one of the other two symptoms. In some cases, the cysts are caused by something else while in other cases, women are diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome by do not have polycystic ovaries.

Last updated on Apr 24th, 2010 and filed under Reproductive Health. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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