Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age.

PCOS is a condition with three main characteristics:

  • Irregular menstrual periods.
  • Excess androgen hormones (male hormones).
  • Polycystic ovaries - ovaries are enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs. Contrary to the name, a woman does not actually have cysts if she has PCOS.

What are the risk factors of PCOS?

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it is believed to be related to hormonal imbalances, genetic factors, and insulin resistance.

A woman is at higher risk of developing PCOS due to the following factors: 

  • Insulin resistance:
    • Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels.
    • Insulin resistance refers to a condition in which the body's tissues exhibit resistance to the effects of insulin. Therefore, the body necessitates the production of additional insulin to compensate.
  • Hormone imbalance:
    • Raised levels of testosterone.
    • Raised levels of luteinising hormone (LH).
  • Genetics:
    • If a close relative, such as your mother, sister, or aunt, has PCOS, your likelihood of developing it is often increased.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) may include the following: 

  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Acne
  • Excess facial and body hair growth (hirsutism)
  • Weight gain
  • Patches of thickened, velvety, and darkened skin (acanthosis nigricans)
  • Sleep apnoea 
  • Infertility

Other symptoms include:

  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia and binge eating 
  • Sexual dysfunction

How is PCOS diagnosed?

The diagnosis of PCOS is typically suspected in women who present with irregular menstrual cycle and symptoms of hyperandrogenism (elevated androgen levels) such as acne, hirsutism, and female pattern hair loss. 

Your doctor may recommend hormone and/or blood tests to rule out other hormone-related conditions. Additionally, you may need an ultrasound scan to help diagnose PCOS. 

How is PCOS treated?

PCOS cannot be cured, but the symptoms are treatable. The treatment options may vary as individuals with PCOS can present with a diverse array of symptoms. 

  • Lifestyle changes:
    • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet. It is highly recommended that your dietary intake incorporates an ample amount of fruits and vegetables, whole foods, fish, chicken and lean meat.
    • Losing weight is one of the most effective methods for managing insulin abnormalities, irregular menstrual cycles, and other PCOS symptoms in women who are overweight or obese.
  • Medications:
    • Oral contraceptive pills to regulate menstrual periods. They are also effective at treating hirsutism. 
    • Progestin also helps treat menstrual irregularity.
  • Fertility treatments:
    • Clomiphene stimulates ovaries to release one or more eggs.
    • If you have PCOS and medications are unable to help you conceive, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment may be recommended.
    • Eggs are extracted from the follicles and fertilised outside the uterus. The fertilised egg or eggs are subsequently re-implanted in the uterus. There is a higher probability of having twins or triplets with IVF. 

When to visit a gynaecologist? 

If you think you might have PCOS, you should talk to your doctor. A few signs that might highlight PCOS include:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles: Irregular cycles of fewer than six to eight menstrual periods a year.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Acne, excessive hair growth, or other symptoms of excess androgen hormone production.
  • Difficulty getting pregnant.

Make an appointment at Pantai Hospitals 

Living with PCOS can be challenging, but you are not alone. By taking action and being proactive about your health, you can effectively manage PCOS and improve your overall well-being.

A dedicated and expert team of obstetrics & gynaecology specialists at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide patients with the best care and assistance. Get in touch with us to book an appointment today if you have any concerns or questions about PCOS treatment options. 

Pantai Hospital has been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality. 

Thank you for your patience