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A Challenging Endocrine Condition

In the U.S., more than 1 in every 10 women experience an endocrine condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Symptoms range from irregular periods to infertility along with weight gain, adult acne, and excessive hair growth on the face, chest, and back. Symptoms can appear soon after the start of a young woman’s menstruation, but when the condition appears later in reproductive years, it is often associated with substantial weight gain.

While an exact cause for PCOS is not known, factors including excess insulin production and low grade inflammation play a role. It is known that PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. In women with the condition, the ovaries produce more androgens (male hormones) than normal. The hormones can alter the development of eggs, leading to many ovarian follicles and cysts on the ovaries.

PCOS can cause problems throughout life including pelvic pain and can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol problems, and sleep apnea. Women with PCOS also can experience fertility problems. Treatments include weight loss to lower insulin levels, oral contraceptives, and/or drugs to correct hormone imbalances. Finding an experienced OB/GYN and endocrinologist who work together on a treatment plan is ideal.

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