Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex disease that shows up in many areas of a woman’s body. Although doctors don’t know exactly what causes it, they do know that women with PCOS have higher levels of androgens in their ovaries. These androgens cause dysfunction in a woman’s reproductive system, and they begin to cause problems elsewhere, too, leading to unwanted side effects. I think one of the first thing women notice is that they put on a lot of weight very quickly despite efforts to diet and exercise. But first, let’s talk about what androgens are and the role they play in PCOS.
Androgens are oftentimes called the “male hormone,” but they are present in both male and female bodies. In a woman’s body, androgens convert to testosterone where they perform a multitude of functions like supporting bone health and increasing libido. When a woman has PCOS, there are too many androgens and too much testosterone being produced in the ovaries. This ovarian hormone imbalance prevents the menstrual cycle from happening properly. Many women with PCOS have very irregular periods. Additionally, as ovaries produce too much testosterone, women will oftentimes begin to gain weight, develop unwanted body hair, facial hair, or develop male pattern baldness.
Like many of the conditions I treat, doctors, researchers, and scientists don’t really know why PCOS happens. We do know that women who have family members with PCOS are more likely to develop the disease. Also, we know that there’s really nothing we can do to prevent it from happening, but luckily, we have access to treatments that can help eliminate side effects and restore hormonal balance.