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PCOS: A better understanding offers fresh hope for new treatments

New insights into polycystic ovary syndrome are revealing more about the causes of this common but misunderstood whole-body condition, and these could lead to new treatments


26 January 2023

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Owen Gent

I WAS 19, my face raging with acne, when my dermatologist started asking me questions that seemed to have nothing to do with my skin. “Are your periods regular? Do you have any excess body hair?” he asked. “You may have polycystic ovary syndrome,” he concluded. I had no idea what he was talking about. “It can make it difficult to have children,” he said as he saw me out.

Reeling, I went to my family doctor, who ordered blood tests and an ultrasound of my ovaries that confirmed I had polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. But she admitted she didn’t know much about it, leaving me confused and miserable about this mysterious condition I had suddenly been saddled with.

Many of my friends have recounted similar experiences. Despite PCOS being the most common hormonal condition among women aged 18 to 45 and a leading cause of infertility, it has been hard for us to get a straight answer about what it actually is or what to do about it.

Seventeen years on from my diagnosis, however, the tide is turning. Researchers are finally piecing together the causes of PCOS and it is being taken seriously as a condition that doesn’t just affect the ovaries, but also has cardiovascular, metabolic and psychological repercussions. As a result, the condition is even set to get a different name later this year (see “Misleading moniker”). And what’s more, this clearer understanding is opening up routes to new treatments.

The first doctors to characterise PCOS were Irving Stein and Michael Leventhal at Northwestern University in Chicago. In 1935, they published a report on …

Source link Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic condition that affects women and currently affects up to 10% of women of childbearing age. It is characterised by an imbalance of hormones in the body and a polycystic ovary structure.

Women with PCOS often experience irregular menstrual cycles and infertility, as well as additional signs and symptoms such as excessive hair growth, weight gain, and anxiety. While PCOS is thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors, the exact cause of the condition is still unknown.

However, recent research has shown that a better understanding of PCOS can provide new hope for better treatments and management strategies.

Recent progress in the understanding of PCOS has focused on hormonal aspects of the condition, particularly the role of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar and is often elevated in those with PCOS. Understanding how this hormone affects the ovaries and the hormones involved in ovulation has advanced the possibility of new treatments to help manage or alleviate the symptoms of PCOS.

Other research has looked at inflammatory markers that may play a role in PCOS, as well as finding genetic variations that are linked to the condition. This increased understanding of PCOS has led to the development of new treatments such as lifestyle modification and targeted medications.

For example, lifestyle changes such as exercise and dietary modifications have been shown to help improve symptoms for women with PCOS. These changes focus on reducing insulin resistance, which can help regulate hormones and improve fertility. Additionally, medication such as those to reduce androgen levels, regulate menstrual cycles, and treat infertility are now available and can be tailored to each woman’s individual needs.

In conclusion, the mounting evidence of a better understanding of PCOS has been incredibly promising for those affected. As research progresses, new interventions are available to improve the health and quality of life of those with PCOS.

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