Every year many women in the UK discover that they have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but their diagnosis can come from lots of different presenting problems. PCOS is very common in women of childbearing age and although lots of the symptoms can be difficult, there is lots of specialised and targeted help for each women with PCOS that you can access through your personal Private GP London Doctors Clinic.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
PCOS is a complicated disorder of hormone production, meaning that many different hormones in the body can be disrupted and can lead to a wide variety of PCOS symptoms. The human body releases lots of hormones which work as chemical messengers, travelling through the blood to cause changes in other parts of the body. The hormones which are mainly affected in PCOS are insulin, which regulates the amount of sugar in the blood and sugar storage, and lots of the different sex hormones. Your private doctors will be able to perform private blood tests to check these levels in your blood, if you think you may be suffering any PCOS symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of PCOS?
* PCOS Subfertility
One of the most difficult symptoms of PCOS can be subfertility (reduced fertility) but there’s absolutely no need to panic as there are lots of treatments available so that women with PCOS can often still fall pregnant! Subfertility occurs because the ovaries are producing lots of immature follicles and these are not developing into mature eggs; these follicles are the “cysts” that can be seen on the ovaries, so PCOS would more correctly be called polyfollicular ovary syndrome! This means that the ovaries are not producing or releasing any mature eggs which could potentially be fertilised to form a pregnancy.
* PCOS Irregular Periods
Women with PCOS often don’t have periods or have infrequent and irregular periods, because there aren’t any mature eggs being released. There are lots of other causes for infrequent and irregular periods though and it’s important to see your GP to help you to find the solution in your individual case.
Many women with PCOS have irregular or absent periods
* PCOS Hormone Dysregulation
The subfertility element of PCOS is only one element of the hormone dysregulation, and although it can be the most upsetting there are other physical symptoms. Women with PCOS can have lots more of the “male” sex hormones, probably due to the follicles on the ovaries, and these can lead to increased hair growth especially on the face – called hirsutism – and sometimes to male pattern baldness. There are also other causes of hirsutism (these hormones are complicated things!) and it’s important for your GP to check that there isn’t another cause for this.
* Other PCOS Symptoms
Another important set of symptoms associated with PCOS are weight gain and difficulty losing weight due to hormonal changes.
One important hormone whose levels are often elevated in women with PCOS is insulin, which increases the risk of insulin resistance. This is where the cells in your body stop responding to the chemical messages from insulin to take up sugar, thus reduce the sugar in the blood. Insulin resistance leads to high levels of both insulin and sugar in the blood. Overall, insulin resistance leads to an increased risk of type II diabetes. This can be investigated with a relatively simple glucose blood test – the samples for which can be taken during your private GP consultation, and results sent back to you in as little as 4 hours!
Weight gain and difficulty losing weight can be combatted by eating a low-sugar diet, or eating “low GI” foods containing a much slower release of sugar. Ask your doctor about whether this appropriate for you. Getting more exercise will also help with this! If you are showing signs of insulinThere are also some prescription medications which the GP may start you on to help insulin to have more affect on your cells if this is appropriate.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is often associated with insulin resistance and diabetes, high cholesterol and being overweight
Causes of PCOS
The cause of PCOS syndrome is unclear but there is a genetic component to the condition, meaning that if your mum or sister or another female relative has PCOS you may be more likely to develop the condition.
Treatment for PCOS
Our GP will likely start by examining you and checking the hormone levels in your blood. We offer some of the most affordable private blood tests in London, with rapid turnover of results – sometimes in as little as just 4 hours! We can then help arrange for an ultrasound scan to look at your ovaries, if required, to check for any pesky follicles! PCOS can take its toll emotionally too, and our GP’s are also happy to help with the condition’s affect on your mental health. If you are feeling hopeless or alone, remember that lots of women have PCOS and there is lots of social and emotional support which you can access through your GP as well.
By Ruth Laurence-King