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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a very common hormone disorder in women, a leading cause of infertility, and one of the most underdiagnosed diseases in the United States. PCOS is characterized by a myriad of seemingly unrelated symptoms and may include irregular or absent periods, lack of ovulation, weight gain, acne, excessive facial hair and infertility. Even more serious, women with PCOS may be at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and endometrial cancer, especially if PCOS is left untreated.

Surprisingly, most women with PCOS don't even know they have it. Less than 25 percent of women with PCOS have actually been diagnosed, largely because women and their health care providers tend to look at the wide variety of symptoms individually rather than collectively. Most women are never officially diagnosed until they begin struggling with infertility and seek help in getting pregnant.

Diagnosis
If you suspect that you might have PCOS, it is important to first get an accurate diagnosis. PCOS can only be diagnosed through assessing hormone levels in the blood, primarily LH (luteinizing hormone), FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), testosterone, DHEAS (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate), and insulin.

It is also critical for your health care provider to evaluate your symptoms and medical history as he or she makes a diagnosis; therefore, you should be open and honest about all of your symptoms, even if you think they are unrelated. In addition, your health care provider might want to do an ultrasound to look at your ovaries.

Treatment
Many physicians have found that one of the most effective treatment options for PCOS, especially those trying to become pregnant, is the use of medications to trigger ovulation and if need be to control abnormal insulin production and sugar metabolism. Insulin sensitizers used alone or with other fertility medications such as clomiphene citrate or injectables often restore ovulation and maintain regular menstrual cycles allowing many women with PCOS to become pregnant.

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