Understanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Jan 09, 2024
 Understanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a complex hormone imbalance and one of the leading causes of infertility in women. Prioritize your long-term health with a women’s health visit today. Keep reading to learn more. 

Period abnormalities, including long-lasting or skipped periods, are often the first indicators of an underlying hormone imbalance in women. If your periods are unpredictable or irregular, inform your physician immediately. 

Many women experiencing unusual menstrual activity find out they have a common hormonal condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The most common cause of female infertility, PCOS occurs when your ovaries produce too many androgens (male hormones). Everyone has androgens, but women typically produce them in much smaller quantities than men. 

The resulting hormone imbalance can interfere with ovulation — the monthly release of a mature egg from an ovary. When ovulation occurs, the egg can be fertilized by a viable sperm, resulting in pregnancy. If you don’t ovulate, you have a challenging time getting pregnant. 

Whether you’re trying to get pregnant without any luck or noticing irregularities in your period, Kelly DiStefano, MD, can evaluate your sexual and reproductive health with a women’s health exam at Montclair Concierge Medicine in Verona, New Jersey. 

With your concierge membership, you can access women’s health services when you need them in person or with convenient telehealth visits. Dr. DiStefano frequently diagnoses PCOS and can treat the symptoms and resulting infertility. 

Symptoms of PCOS 

PCOS symptoms may appear ambiguous if you’re not familiar with the condition. Beyond irregular periods, a hormone imbalance due to PCOS can cause the following:

  • Facial hair growth
  • Thinning hair
  • Excessive body hair 
  • Acne
  • Weight gain in the abdomen
  • Skin tags
  • Skin darkening in your armpits, on your neck, or under your breasts

With a brief physical exam, Dr. DiStefano can quickly identify common PCOS symptoms. However, a more detailed evaluation confirms if these symptoms are due to PCOS and rule out other possible causes. 

The criteria for PCOS diagnosis

Pelvic exams, ultrasound imaging, and hormone blood tests all give Dr. DiStefano more answers as she explores your sexual and reproductive health. Be sure to report any changes since your last women’s health visit. New information helps with making an accurate diagnosis. 

PCOS symptoms often present around the time of your first menstrual period. Still, they might develop after you’ve had periods for several years. Symptoms vary from person to person, so the diagnostic criteria are as follows: 

Irregular periods

With PCOS, your periods may be longer or shorter than average. You might rarely get periods, or they may be difficult to predict. Periods that don’t come consistently every 21-35 days should be reported to our team.

High androgen

A hormone blood test can measure the levels of androgen in your blood. You can thank these androgens for most of the physical symptoms of PCOS, including excessive body hair, baldness, or acne. 

Polycystic ovaries

PCOS can affect both the appearance and function of your ovaries. An examination can confirm if your ovaries are enlarged or if cysts have developed on their edges. Despite the name “polycystic ovary syndrome,” not everyone with PCOS gets cysts on their ovaries. 

Managing your symptoms

PCOS has no cure, but you can manage the symptoms or complications. Adopt a healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet and regular exercise. This step can result in lower blood sugar, increased ovulation, and weight loss

Many women don’t realize they have PCOS until they encounter problems with fertility. Dr. DiStefano can advise you on your fertility treatment options, including medications that stimulate ovulation. 

Dr. DiStefano can counsel you about managing specific PCOS symptoms. Some treatments address multiple symptoms simultaneously. For example, hormonal birth control can correct irregular bleeding, reduce acne, and limit excessive hair growth. You might also consider treatments like laser hair removal for facial hair. 

Ready for your next women’s health visit?

A women’s health visit can provide answers about your hormonal, sexual, and reproductive health. To learn more about PCOS and discover treatments to manage symptoms, call Montclair Concierge Medicine or request an appointment online today.