PCOS 101: everything you need to know about polycystic ovary syndrome

What is it, who gets it, and how do you know if you have it?

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So what exactly is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

Put simply, it's a condition that affects the ovaries and prevents them from functioning properly. 

It's pretty common too - 10 per cent of all women between the ages of 15 and 50 are are affected by PCOS, with symptoms usually beginning to appear in their late teens or twenties. 

What causes it?

An imbalance of hormones in your body - specifically, the over-production of androgens, which are male hormones that females also make. Too high levels of these, such as testosterone, are thought to be the cause of PCOS. 

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But why does your body overproduce these androgens? High levels of the hormone insulin - which controls your sugar levels - is generally considered the culprit. 

What are the symptoms - how do I know if I have it? 

Some women have PCOS and never know, because they have no health problems and no symptoms. Others will experience one or more of the following: 

- irregular periods or no periods at all

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- difficulty getting pregnant as a result of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate

- excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or bum

- unexplained weight gain

- thinning hair and/or hair loss 

- oily skin or acne

What happens if I do have PCOS? What does it mean for me? 

While there is no cure for PCOS, it doesn't mean you'll never be able to get pregnant, so if you want a family at some point in the future and you think you have it - DON'T PANIC. 

Most women with PCOS are able to get pregnant, even if it takes a little work. 

There are a number of fertility medications that may be prescribed by a doctor to combat the effects of PCOS on pregnancy, and if these don't work, a simple surgery called laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) may be recommended

Sounds terrifying because of the 'drilling' part, we know - but it actually involves using a laser to remove the tissue in the ovaries that is creating the hormone imbalance. 

Medications are also available to treat the not-so-pleasant symptoms such as excessive hair growth, irregular periods and acne. 

If you think you could have PCOS, or are worried about your health in any way, GO AND SEE A DOCTOR. It's always worth getting checked out, y'know? 

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