Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) arises from a hormonal imbalance that disrupts regular ovulation. This condition can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, difficulties in conceiving, and symptoms such as weight gain, acne, and oily skin.

  • An estimated 8–13% of women of reproductive age are affected by PCOS.
  • What is PCOS? Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a prevalent condition. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), it impacts between 2% and 26% of women, depending on the diagnostic criteria. Astonishingly, up to 70% of those with PCOS remain undiagnosed.
  • PCOS fundamentally involves a hormonal imbalance where the ovaries fail to release an egg monthly, leading to missed periods. The condition is characterised by a hyper-androgenic state, with elevated testosterone levels causing symptoms like acne, excessive body and facial hair, scalp hair loss, oily skin, and weight gain.
  • Individuals with PCOS may face challenges in conceiving. Over time, if the hormonal imbalance worsens, it can lead to serious health issues, including diabetes and endometrial cancer.
 

What causes PCOS?

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. However, diagnosis is typically based on meeting two of the three criteria known as The Rotterdam Criteria: 

  1. Elevated androgen levels (testosterone) or symptoms like excessive hair growth,

  2. Irregular menstrual cycles,

  3. Polycystic appearance of ovaries on an ultrasound.

Elevated androgen levels are considered the primary driver of PCOS, preventing ovulation and causing various bodily symptoms.

Are there other health risks associated with PCOS?

Long-term, PCOS is associated with several significant health risks, including cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, fatty liver, diabetes, infertility, and womb cancer. The latter is primarily due to infrequent menstrual periods, which can be managed through continuous contraception or periodic progestogen medication to induce periods.

Main symptoms of PCOS:

Common symptoms include irregular periods, fatigue, bloating, and acne. Other signs of high androgen levels include scalp hair loss, facial and body hair growth, and weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. Additional symptoms can include cravings for sugary foods, dark skin patches, and fertility issues.

How can you determine if you have PCOS?

PCOS may not be immediately apparent from symptoms alone. Essential diagnostic steps include blood tests for androgen levels and a pelvic ultrasound to check for polycystic ovaries. A diagnosis requires meeting two out of the three Rotterdam criteria.

How can our service assist before you visit a GP?

Our team is ready to discuss your symptoms and offer advice on managing them. We can guide you to useful resources or explain how to seek further help from your GP.  We can also write to your GP and summarise our consultations. 

What follows a PCOS diagnosis?

Post-diagnosis, individuals often feel left out of the loop. However, ongoing care is crucial and should include regular health checks and measures to protect the womb lining. Support networks and lifestyle adjustments, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, are also vital. Those seeking to conceive may need early referral to a fertility specialist, and pregnant women should be monitored for gestational diabetes.

Managing PCOS involves lifelong attention and support, but with early diagnosis and intervention, individuals can maintain a high quality of life.  See our useful links page.

Virtual Comprehensive Consultation with Doctor

45 minute Consultation
£ 199
  • Discuss all aspects of menstrual, vaginal, sexual and contraceptive health
  • Suitable for those with other medical conditions that need further advice.
  • Summary letter to you and your GP for ongoing care if needed.
  • A private prescription is included in this appointment if needed (cost of contraception is paid separately directly to pharmacy)