What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition which can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, fertility, hormones and aspects of her appearance. It can also affect long-term health.
What are polycystic ovaries?
Polycystic ovaries are slightly larger than normal ovaries and have twice the number of follicles (small cysts). Polycystic ovaries are very common affecting 20 in 100 (20%) of women. Having polycystic ovaries does not mean you have polycystic ovary syndrome. Around 6 or 7 in 100 (6–7%) of women with polycystic ovaries have PCOS.
The symptoms of PCOS can include:
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Difficulty becoming pregnant (reduced fertility)
- Having more facial or body hair than is usual for you (hirsutism)
- Loss of hair on your head
- Being overweight, rapid increase in weight, difficulty losing weight
- Oily skin, acne
A diagnosis is usually made when you have any two of the following:
- Irregular, infrequent periods or no periods
- More facial or body hair than is usual for you and/or blood tests which
- Show higher testosterone levels than normal
- An ultrasound scan which shows polycystic ovaries.
What can you do if you have it?
The main ways to reduce your overall risk of long-term health problems are to:
Eat a healthy balanced diet.
This should include fruit and vegetables and whole foods (such as wholemeal bread, whole grain cereals, brown rice, wholewheat pasta), lean meat, fish and chicken. You should decrease sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol (14 units is the recommended maximum units a week for women). Eat meals regularly especially including breakfast
Take exercise regularly
(30 minutes at least three times a week). You should aim to keep your weight to a level which is normal (a BMI between 19 and 25). BMI is the measurement of weight in relation to height.
Is there a cure?
There is no cure for PCOS. Medical treatments aim to manage and reduce the symptoms or consequences of having PCOS. Medication alone has not been shown to be any better than healthy lifestyle changes (weight loss and exercise). Many women with PCOS successfully manage their symptoms and long-term health risks without medical intervention. They do this by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Author Rita Galimberti Femplus Clinic