Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is seldom discussed because its main symptoms are usually borne without them being considered a medical condition. It is considered a medically benign condition. Those who are severely affected tend to be overweight, prone to acne, grown unsightly body hair, have no or very few periods, experience episodes of infertility and suffer mood swings. The cause is not understood but is related to problems within the ovaries themselves. The condition does not shorten life but causes distress and discomfort. There is no cure for the condition, but symptomatic relief can be achieved with hormones and/or a natural health-plan.
The syndrome is the outcome of the complex abnormalities associated with hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian function produces abnormal hormone levels, including higher levels of circulating androgens than is normal in women, causing a greater sex drive and more energy. Although the increased hairiness often only affects the face, there can, too, be an increase on both the arms and legs, and there is a tendency to have a male pattern of distribution of hair on the abdomen and chest. As well as the outward signs of the disease, the hormonal imbalance also affects ovarian function so that the surface of the ovaries becomes too thick to allow the monthly discharge of the ripe ovum at ovulation. As a result, the ovaries are enlarged and studded with cysts. Although their patients' periods are scanty and irregular, they are, in 20% of cases, unusually painful. Another complication of PCOS is its association with coronary arterial disease, increasing by three-fold the rate of heart disease in affected women through the mechanism of increasing circulating insulin. Hormone treatment and excision of about half the ovarian tissue are the two usual treatments, but both are variable in efficacy.
Polycystic ovary syndrome affects up to five women.