PCOS affects 5–15% of women of reproductive age. It can affect fertility and result in metabolic or cardiovascular complications in the long term. Dr Kelly Loi, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist from Health & Fertility Centre for Women at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, shares the common symptoms of PCOS so that you can stay alert of the symptoms to get it diagnose early and managed.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. While the cause of PCOS is unknown, it is strongly associated with insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. There may also be a genetic component to the syndrome.
The three common symptoms of PCOS are:
- Infrequent, irregular or prolong menstrual periods
- Elevated level of androgens (male hormones) that causes excess facial/body hair, acne, and male-pattern baldness
- Presence of polycystic ovaries where the ovaries are enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs, which could impair their function and limit fertility.
Early diagnosis and treatment matters. If you experience two or more of the symptoms, it is important to get an early diagnosis to prevent complication and address issues such as infertility.
What are the problems of PCOS?
PCOS is linked to a range of complication such as infertility. It can also increase the risk of gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and miscarriage or premature birth. Other metabolic impacts include high blood pressure, high blood sugar and severe liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation. Another effect is abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, which increases the risk of sleep apnoea, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. PCOS is also associated with depression, anxiety and eating disorders, abnormal uterine bleeding and cancer of the uterine lining.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
To test for PCOS, your gynae will take a comprehensive medical history that will include tracking your menstrual periods and weight changes. He or she may also check for signs of excess hair growth, insulin resistance and acne. There is typically a pelvic exam and/or an ultrasound to assess the reproductive organs for masses, growths or other abnormalities. Blood tests will also be done.
Treatment is geared towards a holistic approach to:
- Regulate the menstrual cycle through hormone treatment or birth control pills
- Treat subfertility issues via hormonal ovulation induction, keyhole surgery to remove the growths on the ovaries, or infertility treatment such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF)
- Reduce excessive hair growth using medication or aesthetic treatments
- Screen for and prevent long-term complications, such as diabetes and hypertension