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What is PCOS?

Lina Echavarria, MD, MPH

Prestige OB/GYN Miramar

1951 SW 172nd Ave. Ste. 405

Miramar, FL 33029

954-538-1300

 

Many women have abnormal, irregular periods. One common diagnosis is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This is characterized by ovulatory dysfunction where the most common symptom is to endure months either without a period or have heavy, prolonged periods. This dysfunction can lead to infertility. Because the patient does not ovulate, fertility becomes hindered. A patient with PCOS can also present with increased levels of testosterone (hyperandrogenism) causing acne and thickened hair in areas such as the face, arms, and abdomen. One of the most common comorbidities is obesity and is seen in about 80% of the patients. Many of the patients develop insulin resistance increasing their risk of diabetes. The cause of this syndrome is unknown and the diagnosis is based on blood work and pelvic ultrasound. The blood work consists of ruling out other causes of hyperandrogenism and irregular periods such as thyroid dysfunction, androgen (testosterone) secreting tumors of the ovary or adrenal gland, primary ovarian failure among others. As far as the characteristics seen in ultrasound, we look for one or both ovaries to have 12 or more follicles measuring 2-9 mm in diameter or increased ovarian volume. It is important to remark that this syndrome can be diagnosed as early as teenage years or well in to adulthood. Treatment is based on symptoms and the most common form is combined hormonal contraception (birth control) which works by decreasing the secretion of androgens. The choice of birth control pill used depends on the symptoms being treated and patient trial for efficacy. Laser hair removal therapy is also commonly used because it directly controls hair growth. Diet and exercise also pay a pivotal role to decrease the risk of developing diabetes. Finally, it is important to see a gynecologist upon identifying the above symptoms in order to obtain a proper diagnosis and prompt treatment.

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