PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and is also sometimes referred to as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in the literature. PCOS is a common gynaecological condition that affects 5-10% of women. Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome typically have irregular periods, and sometimes the periods may come every few months, or even not at all. This is due to the fact that in these women with PCOS, the ovaries do not ovulate (i.e. release eggs), and as a result the male hormones (androgens) increase in these women with PCOS.
Due to the elevation in androgen levels, women with PCOS can sometimes report excessive hair growth on the face and other areas, acne, and/or male-pattern hair thinning.
Some women with PCOS are overweight or obese, however there is a sub-group of women with PCOS who have normal weight. Women with PCOS, especially if they are obese, are at increased risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. It is therefore important to have screening for diabetes and other risk factors for heart disease, such as checking their cholesterol levels.
PCOS is also associated with reduced fertility, due to the fact that the ovaries are not ovulating (i.e. releasing an egg) regularly with each menstrual cycle. This is known as “anovulatory infertility or sub-fertility”. It is referred to as “sub-fertility” because whilst it is more difficult for women with PCOS to conceive naturally, some menstrual cycles in women with PCOS may indeed be ovulatory, and so a natural conception can occur. It usually takes longer for women with PCOS to conceive naturally. The good news for women with PCOS trying to conceive is that this type of anovulatory infertility can be treated to improve their chances for conception, and weight reduction on its own may be enough to make the ovaries ovulate again. In other cases medications can be given to help the ovaries ovulate.
The diagnosis for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is complex, and it is not diagnosed by simply doing a blood test or an ultrasound scan. It is diagnosed when women have a combination of the symptoms of PCOS, as well as blood tests showing elevated male hormones (androgens), and an ultrasound scan showing polycystic ovaries. Furthermore, some of the above features characteristic for PCOS may also be seen in other medical conditions, and clinical assessment and blood tests may be required to rule out the possibility of other more unusual diagnoses. Your gynaecologist will assess your specific symptoms, and arrange appropriate tests in order to confirm the diagnosis of PCOS.
Treatment for PCOS may involve:
Treatment needs to be tailored to the individual. For example, the oral contraceptive pill would not be useful in a woman with PCOS who is trying to conceive. For optimal treatment, expert management by a multidisciplinary team specialising in PCOS is paramount. Dr Ken Law is a gynaecology specialist in Brisbane who has a special interest in PCOS, and works within an experienced multi-disciplinary team of specialists, including an endocrinologist, dietitian, diabetic educator, and this ensures that women with PCOS receive the most appropriate treatment for their condition, all under the one roof at Greenslopes Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Dr Ken Law is a gynaecologist who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of women in Brisbane with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). He offers comprehensive care for these women, from initial assessment and confirmation of the diagnosis of PCOS, to management of the menstrual cycles, right through to fertility treatments for women with PCOS. To discuss your specific concerns and PCOS symptoms with Brisbane PCOS specialist, please contact Dr Ken Law to arrange an appointment at Greenslopes Obstetrics and Gynaecology.