Diagnosis is usually made when you have been found to have 2 out of 3 of the following:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition where multiple, small and harmless cysts develop within the ovary. Every month, as part of a normal menstrual cycle, follicles begin to develop within the ovaries. These follicles contain eggs and when one or two of the follicles become mature enough they will release the eggs, which is when your body ovulates. The remaining follicles which didn't mature then die off. However, women with PCOS will have a higher level of insulin in their system which stops the remaining follicles from dying off.
In women with PCOS the follicles that develop are often unable to release an egg and therefore ovulation will not occur. Without regular ovulation it then becomes difficult for the patient to conceive, leading to fertility problems. In addition, patients will have a higher than average level of male hormones within the body.
Although the exact cause of PCOS is unclear, patients are known to have abnormally high levels of insulin within their blood stream, indicating resistance and this is often worse in women who are overweight. An increase in insulin causes the body to release too much testosterone which has side effects such as excessive hair growth and acne and it also stops the follicles from developing properly and therefore interferes with ovulation.
is now thought to affect almost 30% of women in the UK
In patients suffering from PCOS the ovarian cycle is erratic and inefficient and therefore the best way to manage the condition is to either "switch off" the ovarian function or to try and prevent the large fluctuations in oestrogen levels through adjustments in diet or adding in medication.
Diet changes can significantly improve insulin resistance which in turn alleviates the symptoms that this produces. A diet high in carbohydrates or one which involves lots of snacking between meals has been proven to make insulin resistance worse. Therefore by making some small changes to the type of food you eat it can make all the difference. Please see our separate page on dietary advice for more information.
Medication in the form of Metformin can be used to enhance tissue receptivity to oestrogen and testosterone and it may help to reduce the symptoms associated with insulin resistance such as hunger cravings and weight gain. In addition, a topical oestrogen which is absorbed via the skin can help to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with PCOS.