Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Often Missed Diagnosis

2010-02-03 04:00

It is the most common hormonal disorder among women of childbearing age, yet it is often missed or misdiagnosed. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS; also known as polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a frequent cause of infertility among women and, according to a recent study, men can be affected as well.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is so named because the ovaries in most, but not all, women who have the disorder are enlarged and are characterized by numerous small cysts located on the outer edge of each ovary. These cysts can be detected using ultrasound. The exact cause of PCOS is not known, although insulin resistance, low-grade inflammation, and genetics have been proposed. What is apparent is that many women with the disease have trouble becoming pregnant because of infrequent or a lack of ovulation.

Infertility is not the only condition associated with PCOS. According to the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association, women with the disease also often experience excessive weight gain, excess facial and body hair, depression, high cholesterol, oily skin, skin discoloration, elevated blood pressure, and acne. Early diagnosis and treatment of the PCOS is important not only for women who want to become pregnant, but also because complications of the disease include type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. An estimated 5 million women in the United States have PCOS.


Andrea Dunaif, MD, the Charles F. Kettering Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, is a national expert on PCOS. She notes that the genetic disease is associated with serious health risks, including obesity and twice the rate of metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.


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