Acne, weight gain, excess body hair, irregular periods, depression, infertility are just some of the frustrating symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
It’s estimated that 12 to 18 per cent of women at child-bearing aged experience PCOS, and up to 21 per cent in high-risk groups such as Indigenous women. It’s also the most common reproductive disorder in females, but what exactly is it?
At the crux of PCOS is hormone imbalance. Most symptoms are caused by high levels of androgens (male hormones) circulating throughout the body. These high levels of androgens (often testosterone) can prevent ovulation and also affect your menstrual cycle.
The name polycystic suggests multiple cysts on the ovaries, but that’s not always the case. According to health organisation Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, ‘Not all women who have PCOS have multiple ‘cysts’ and not all women who have multiple ‘cysts’ have PCOS. The term ‘cyst’ is a bit misleading. The cysts are actually not cysts but partially formed follicles which contain an egg.’
If left untreated, PCOS may affect a woman’s appearance, mood and overall wellbeing. It’s a disorder that’s difficult to diagnose and largely misunderstood, so here’s what you need to know.