What is PCOS?
- Irregular periods that come every few months, not at all, or too frequently
- Extra hair on your face or other parts of your body, called hirsutism (her-suit-is-em)
- Weight gain and/or trouble losing weight
- Patches of dark skin on the back of your neck and other areas, called acanthosis nigricans (a-can-tho-sis ni-gri-cans)
For a more detailed explanation, take a look at the figure below:
- The pituitary (pi-tu-i-tary) gland in your brain makes the hormones luteinizing (lu-tin-iz-ing) hormone (LF) and follicle (fall-i-call) stimulating hormone (FSH).
- After getting the signal from the hormones LH and FSH, the ovaries make estrogen (es-tro-gen) and progesterone (pro-ges-ter-one), the female sex hormones.
- All normal ovaries also make a little bit of the androgen testosterone (an-dro-gen tes-tos-ter-own), a male sex hormone. The pancreas (pang-cre-us) is an organ that makes insulin. High levels of insulin can also cause the ovaries to make more of the hormone testosterone.
- The menstrual cycle starts when the brain sends LH and FSH to the ovaries. A big surge of LH is the signal that tells the ovaries to ovulate, or release an egg.
- The egg travels down the fallopian tube and into the uterus. Progesterone from the ovary tells the lining of the uterus to thicken.
- If the egg isn't fertilized, the lining of the uterus is shed. This is a menstrual period.
- After the menstrual period, the cycle begins all over again.
The diagram on top shows a regular menstrual cycle, and the diagram on the bottom shows a PCOS cycle with no ovulation. Girls with PCOS may ovulate occasionally or not at all, so periods may be too close together, or more commonly too far apart. Some girls may not get a period at all.
- With PCOS, LH levels are often high when the menstrual cycle starts. The levels of LH are also higher than FSH levels.
- Because the LH levels are already quite high, there is no LH surge. Without this LH surge, ovulation does not occur, and periods are irregular.
- Correct the hormone imbalance
- Lower the level of testosterone (which will improve acne and lessen hair growth)
- Regulate your menstrual periods
- Lower the risk of endometrial cancer (which is slightly higher in young women who don't ovulate regularly)
- Prevent an unplanned pregnancy if you are sexually active
- Choose nutritious, high-fiber carbohydrates instead of sugary or refined carbohydrates
- Balance carbohydrates with protein and healthy fats
- Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day instead of large meals
- Exercise regularly to help manage insulin levels and your weight
- Blood sugar test once a year
- A1C test (a test that tells how high your blood sugar has been the past 2-3 months) once a year
- Glucose tolerance test every few years