No one knows the exact cause of PCOS but mounting evidence suggests that PCOS might be a complex multigenic disorder (many gene polymorphisms across many systems-hormonal, metabolic, immunological), with strong epigenetic and environmental influences, including diet and other lifestyle issues.
The facts of PCOS
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is defined by a combination of signs and symptoms of androgen excess and ovarian dysfunction in the absence of other specific diagnoses.
- According to Dr. Andrea Dunaif, MD, it can take up to an average of 4 doctors to accurately diagnosis PCOS
- PCOS is becoming a more prevalent disorder among women of reproductive age with lifelong complications. One of the most challenging aspects of this syndrome is its ambiguous diagnostic criteria and vast complexity of characteristics.
- One of the earliest signs is elevated androgens in adolescents
- As women with PCOS get older, they are likely to experience more regular menstrual cycles.
- Women with PCOS can have monthly menstrual cycles and still have PCOS.
- Women with PCOS have a higher incidence of gestational diabetes, miscarriages, preterm deliveries, and stillbirths.
- Women with PCOS may have more difficulty breastfeeding and producing sufficient milk for their babies.
- Despite its name, not all women with PCOS actually have cysts on their ovaries. What are called cysts are actually immature follicles.
- Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea due to the influence of androgens affecting sleep receptors in the brain. PCOS is the most common cause of ovulatory infertility.
- Eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are common among women with PCOS.
- Women with PCOS have higher rates of anxiety and depression than women without the syndrome.
- In PCOS, there is a rapid conversion from impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes. For this reason, the Androgen Excess and PCOS Society recommends yearly blood screening.
- Women with PCOS have more testosterone and can build muscle easier than women without the syndrome.
- Testosterone is one of many male hormones which may be raised in women with PCOS. Other include DHEAS and Androstenedione.
- Women of all races and ethnicities are at risk for PCOS, but your risk for PCOS may be higher if you are obese or if your mother, sister, or aunt has PCOS.
- PCOS may not be just a reproductive disorder in women. It is rather a metabolic disorder (with reproductive dysfunction) that can be seen in both men and women.