PCOS: What is it?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition that can affect your periods, fertility, hormones and aspects of your appearance. It can also affect your long-term health. Estimates of how many women it affects vary widely from 2 to 26 in every 100 women.

Polycystic Ovaries: What are they?

Polycystic ovaries are slightly larger than normal ovaries and have twice the number of follicles (fluid-filled spaces within the ovary that release the eggs when you ovulate). Having polycystic ovaries does not necessarily mean that you have PCOS. Women with PCOS can have the same symptoms as with polycystic ovaries.

PCOS: What are the symptoms?

The PCOS symptoms include:

  • irregular periods or no periods at all
  • an increase in facial or body hair (hirsutism)
  • loss of hair on your head
  • being overweight, experiencing a rapid increase in weight or having difficulty losing weight
  • oily skin, acne
  • difficulty becoming pregnant (reduced fertility).

PCOS: How is it diagnosed?

Having polycystic ovaries does not mean you have PCOS. Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome often have symptoms that come and go, particularly if their weight goes up and down. This can make it a difficult condition to diagnose, which means it may take a while to get a diagnosis.

A diagnosis is made when you have any two of the following:

  • Irregular, infrequent periods or no periods at all
  • An increase in facial or body hair and/or blood tests that show higher testosterone levels than normal
  • An ultrasound scan that shows polycystic ovaries.

PCOS Treatment: What are my options?

There is no cure for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Medical treatments aim to manage and reduce PCOS symptoms. Medication alone has not been shown to be any better than healthy lifestyle changes (weight loss and exercise).

Many women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome successfully manage their PCOS symptoms and long-term health risks without medical intervention. They do this by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

PCOS and Fertility: Fertility treatment options

Getting pregnant can be a problem for some women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Your doctor at Merrion Fertility Clinic Dublin can provide you with information about your options.

Adapted from RCOG Patient information leaflet: Polycystic ovarian syndrome: what it means for your long-term health. June 2015.

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