What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome or PCOS is a medical disorder affecting women's ovaries. This syndrome is characterized by the presence of numerous cysts, irregular or no menstrual periods, irregular ovulation and high levels of androgens in the body. Androgens are male hormones. These women who have PCOS have problems getting pregnant. It is now becoming a more common condition nowadays. Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and high cholesterol. This is why women with PCOS need to be treated as soon as possible.
What happens in PCOS is that the ovaries produce excess male hormones so that small cysts form on the ovaries as a result of a lack of hormones that trigger ovulation. In these women ovulation does not occur so that these ovarian follicles remain filled with fluid and remain as cysts.
A woman with PCOS may exhibit signs and symptoms such as irregular or no menstrual periods, problems getting pregnant, hirsutism or excessive hair growth, usually on the buttocks or back or face, hair loss (from the head), acne, pelvic pain and patches of dark skin at the back of the neck and other areas caused by too much insulin. PCOS is said to be a common cause of infertility among women. Some women who have PCOS get diagnosed only after seeing their doctor after finding out that they have problems getting pregnant. Infertility is brought about by irregular menstrual cycles.
The causes of PCOS are unknown yet many experts believe that it is caused by hormonal imbalance. The cause of PCOS is insulin resistance which further leads to higher levels of blood insulin, which in turn makes the ovaries produce too much testosterone hormone (androgens). This undermines the development of sacs in the ovaries where eggs develop (follicles), leading to abnormal or non-existent ovulation. Insulin resistance can also make women gain more weight which further makes PCOS worse. There are other hormonal imbalances in PCOS such as high testosterone levels, high luteinizing hormone levels, low sex hormone binding globulin or SHBG levels and high prolactin levels. Women with PCOS produce testosterone more than the average female. If LH levels are high, proper functioning of ovaries are disrupted. SHBG counteracts the effects of testosterone. Prolactin stimulates the production of milk in the breast glands in pregnancy. High prolactin is present only in some patients with PCOS. The cause of these hormonal imbalances are unknown however it is possible that insulin resistance also triggered hormonal imbalance.
PCOS is also an inherited condition; studies show that a woman is more likely to develop polycystic ovary syndrome if her mother, aunt or sister also has/had it. Other factors that can lead to the development of PCOS include exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), exposure to androgens in the womb and other chemical exposures.
Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Find Hope in Letrozole
A recent study shows that the drug letrozole results in higher birth rates in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) than the current preferred infertility treatment drug. This study, done by researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine was able to study infertile women with PCOS between 18 and 40 years old who wanted to conceive. Women were randomly assigned to either clomiphene or letrozole and took the medications for up to five cycles, with increasing dosage each cycle. The results showed that women who received letrozole had a higher rate of live births — 27.5 percent — than those on clomiphene — 19.1 percent. In addition, ovulation rates were significantly higher with letrozole than with clomiphene at each monthly visit. The researchers were glad for this discovery so that more women can do away with the drawbacks of clomiphene such as a 22% success rate, a high multiple pregnancy rate and side effects such as hot flashes and mood changes.
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