Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects as many as 5 million women in the United States. This metabolic disorder causes a hormone imbalance in which a woman has an abnormally high level of androgens, or male hormones.
One of the primary symptoms of PCOS is cysts, or fluid-filled sacs, on the ovaries.
The OB/GYN team at Capital Women’s Care in Silver Spring and Laurel, Maryland, can help you understand a diagnosis of PCOS and what it means for your fertility and quality of life. They also help you manage PCOS so you experience minimal symptoms.
Here’s what they want you to know about the hormonal imbalances that come with PCOS and the effects on your ovaries.
Your ovaries are two almond-shaped organs that sit on either side of your uterus, and they’re where the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are made.
These hormones influence female traits like body hair, breast development, and body shape. The hormones also dictate menstrual cycle and ovulation, or the release of an egg from the ovaries every month.
Follicles develop on your ovaries to release eggs to be potentially fertilized and lead to a pregnancy. If these follicles fail to release an egg, they remain as cysts. Cysts can also form after an egg is released; the follicle fills with fluid.
Ovarian cysts are normal and a natural result of the menstrual cycle. These functional cysts are usually harmless and disappear on their own in a few months. In some cases, functional cysts cause painful symptoms and require surgery.
Ovarian cysts caused by hormonal imbalances are different, however.
PCOS is a condition in which your ovaries have an abnormally large number of follicles, or cysts. The presence of the cysts interferes with hormone production and ovulation. You experience symptoms like:
These symptoms are a result of the high levels of male hormones that usually accompany PCOS. Although it’s called polycystic ovary syndrome, not all women with the condition develop cysts.
When a woman does have cysts with PCOS, the cysts persist because the hormonal imbalance means your ovaries don’t always receive the message to release the eggs from the follicles. The follicles remain closed and continue as ovarian cysts.
Women with PCOS often suffer from insulin resistance too. Insulin is a hormone that’s important to blood sugar regulation, and resistance to it increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
How we treat PCOS depends on your age, your family plans, the severity of your symptoms, and any other underlying conditions — like Type 2 diabetes.
PCOS can interfere with fertility. If you do plan on getting pregnant, we recommend a healthy diet and physical activity to help you manage your weight. If you can’t get pregnant on your own, we may offer medications like Clomid® to spur ovulation.
If you’re not looking to get pregnant right now, hormonal birth control pills help regulate your menstrual cycle and lower your high androgen levels. For women who have high insulin with PCOS, diabetes medication helps you ovulate more regularly and controls androgen levels.
Women who are bothered by extra hair growth and acne also benefit from specific medications to target these symptoms. We work with you to customize your treatment so you feel better and more confident.
Learn more about how the OB/GYN team at Capital Women’s Care in Silver Spring and Laurel, Maryland, can help you manage PCOS. Call or use this website to set up your visit. We evaluate your symptoms and determine the best plan for your reproductive health.