PCOS (Polyscystic Ovarian Syndrome)

Anai Rhoads's picture

by Anai Rhoads

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome is a disorder in which the ovaries are enlarged with cysts, with levels of male hormones.

The pituitary gland commonly secretes large amounts of luteinizing hormone in this case. Excess levels of this hormone increases the production of the male hormone, causing symptoms of course hair and acne.

If untreated, some of the androgens may be converted to estrogens, and the high levels of estrogens may increase the risk of cancer of the uterine lining which is called endometrial cancer.

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms typically begin during puberty, when menstrual periods may or may not begin. Symptoms may include:
    • Obesity
    • Increase in body hair growing on face or chest
    • Or irregular vaginal bleeding may occur, with no increase in weight or body hair.

How is it diagnosed?

An ultrasound may be used to view the ovaries. In addition, a blood test will be needed to measure blood levels of luteinizing hormone and male hormones.

How is this treated if I don't these symptoms?

A woman who doesn't have increased body hair may be given a progesterone-like drug such as synthetic progestin or The Pill (The Pill is given to women during this treatment if they wish not to have children -- they won't be asked to use The Pill otherwise).

How is this treated if I do have the male hormones?

Spironolactone is a drug that blocks the production of male hormones. It can be used to reduce unwanted body hair. There are however side effects to this drug. Side effects may or may not include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Fainting (low blood pressure)
  • Tender/painful breasts
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding

Please note that Spironolactone may not be safe for a developing fetus. It is suggested that while on this treatment that you either abstain from intercourse, or use reliable birth control methods.

What if I have PCOS and wish to be pregnant?

If a woman who has PCOS wants to become pregnant, she may be given a variety of hormones to stimulate the ovaries to release her eggs. These hormones include Clomiphene, follicle-stimulating hormone and a gonadotropin-releasing hormone.

If this treatment is not successful, surgical procedures may be considered to remove any scar tissue.

Read more about PCOS

Anai Rhoads is a medical and political researcher/writer with a particular interest in the sanctions on Iraq and the wider effect of racism's influence in the Middle East. A vegan since 2000, she is a dedicated supporter of activities which promote animal and human rights. Originally from Greece, she now resides in Virginia, USA with her husband and their two dogs, Bijou and Eva.

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Copyright © Anai Rhoads. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.