PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a distressing condition that may affect women.
It usually is first noticed at puberty in girls but may also manifest in later life, where it is often linked to obesity. There is also a known link between PCOS and Male Pattern Baldness in women.
What is PCOS?
This is a condition that affects the ovaries. It inhibits the regular release of eggs.
How it causes problems
Fluid sacs develop in the ovaries and this means that egg release is irregular and unpredictable. The ovaries may also become enlarged.
The causes are unfortunately unclear but there is some evidence that it is hormone related, although insulin levels, obesity and genetics plus background infections, also seem to play a part at times.
It causes problems for affected women in several areas but notably because the levels of the male hormone androgen are much higher than would be the norm.
What are the effects?
When PCOS develops at puberty, it is often first noticed when the girl’s periods are significantly irregular. Paradoxically, it may also mean that periods are too frequent at times or heavier than should be expected.
The excess of androgen may also result in the development of some characteristics more commonly associated with males, notably deep voice, more apparent body and facial hair and of key importance to hair loss and hair drop – the typical symptoms of Male Pattern Baldness (MPB).
It may also be the cause of more severe cases of acne.
When arriving in later life, it may also lead to weight gain, mood swings, insomnia, a loss of libido and otherwise mimic the symptoms of the menopause (which is what it is sometimes misdiagnosed as prior to testing).
PCOS can also lead to a wide range of other, sometimes serious medical conditions for affected women.
When to see a doctor
It’s always advisable to see a doctor if:
- your periods start becoming irregular or heavier than normal (or are so from puberty);
- you begin seeing signs of a sudden increase in body or facial hair;
- there is unusual hair loss or the signs of MPB developing;
- you are struggling to conceive.
This usually requires:
- a general physical examination;
- blood tests;
- a pelvic examination;
- a vaginal ultrasound scan.
There is no single one-size-fits-all treatment for PCOS. Each case will be diagnosed and a treatment regime defined based on the individual patent’s position.
That might comprise one or more of the following:
- hormone treatments of one form or another;
- the use of contraceptive pills in combination;
- lifestyle changes (often involving losing weight);
- a wide variety of other medications designed to stimulate the ovaries, reduce androgen levels and so on.
Most hair care specialists will recognise the symptoms of MPB in women. In such situations, if you haven’t already done so, they will most likely recommend that you consult a doctor for hormone levels checks etc.
Of course, women experiencing hair drop may be doing so for any one of many different reasons and not PCOS. Once again, your hair care advisor will provide further information if he or she believes that to be the case.