Obesity Management (Obesity & PCOD)
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a mild hormone imbalance that can cause irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, and acne. It can be mild or severe. This is a common condition that begins during the teenage years. In fact, almost one out of fifteen women has PCOS.
What are the signs of PCOS?
Adolescents with PCOS can have a range of signs. Some of the most common include:
- Irregular periods-periods that come every few months, not at all, or too frequently
- Extra hair on your face or other parts of your body
- Weight gain and/or trouble losing weight
- Patches of dark skin on the back of your neck and other areas
Could I have PCOS?
If you have some or all of the above symptoms, you might have PCOS. There are also other reasons why you might have these signs and symptoms. Only your doctor can tell for sure. If you do have PCOS, you'll want to know what causes PCOS, how it works, and how to treat it. Read on for more information and answers to your questions!
What causes PCOS?
PCOS is caused by an imbalance in the hormones (chemical messengers) in your brain and your ovaries.
For a more detailed explanation, take a look at the figure below:
- The pituitary gland in your brain makes the hormones luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone (LH and FSH). These are the messengers that tell the ovaries to make other hormones.
- The ovary then makes estrogen and progesterone (female sex hormones). All normal ovaries also make little bit of the androgen testosterone (a male sex hormone).
PCOS occurs when these hormones don't communicate appropriately. Specifically, the pituitary gland makes too much LH. In turn, this causes your ovaries to start to make extra testosterone.
Why are my periods so irregular?
Having PCOS means that your ovaries don't get the correct hormonal signals to allow you to have your period once a month. To answer this question in more detail, first let's look at the cycle of a normal menstrual period.
- The cycle starts when the brain sends LH and FSH to the ovaries. A big surge of LH is the signal that tells the ovaries to ovulate, or release a ripe egg.
- The egg travels down the fallopian tube and into the uterus. Progesterone from the ovary tells the lining of the uterus to thicken.
- If the egg isn't fertilized, you shed the lining of the uterus as a menstrual period and the cycle begins all over again.
Now, let's look at why having PCOS means that you don't get your period regularly. Remember that your LH levels are much higher than your FSH levels. The LH surge that is supposed to come once a month does not occur. This finding, combined with the extra testosterone in your blood, keeps you from ovulating. The diagram above shows that the whole cycle stops just before ovulation. As a result, women with PCOS have irregular periods (too frequent or late) or don't get their periods at all.
What are these cysts on my ovaries?
The term "polycystic ovaries" means that there are lots of tiny cysts, or bumps, inside of your ovaries. Not all women with PCOS have these cysts. Even if you do have them, they are not harmful and do not need to be removed.
Why do I get acne and/or extra hair on my body?
Acne and extra hair on your face and body can be the result of slightly too much testosterone. All women make testosterone. If you have PCOS, your ovaries make a little bit more than they are supposed to, or your body is more sensitive to testosterone. Testosterone tells your hair follicles to "turn on,” causing hair growth. Testosterone also affects skin cells, resulting in acne.
Why do I have patches of dark skin?
Many adolescents with PCOS have higher levels of insulin (a hormone) in their bloodstream. This can sometimes cause patches of darkened skin on the back of your neck. This hormone may also send a signal to your ovaries, resulting in their making extra testosterone.