Understanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Cardamone Stefanie Cardamone, MD
Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecologist
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects approximately 60,000 women in Suffolk County. It’s a hormonal and metabolic condition that impacts a woman’s quality of life, reproductive and overall health.

What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common but complex condition that touches one in ten women of childbearing age. It is associated with the excess production of certain hormones called androgens, often associated with insulin resistance. 

PCOS can affect a woman’s metabolic, endocrine and reproductive systems. It is one of the most common causes of irregular menstrual cycles and infertility, as the high levels of androgens interfere with the development and release of eggs. For some, metabolic changes can result in weight gain, and the hormonal changes can be responsible for acne, excess body hair, and even male pattern baldness. PCOS can also increase the chance of developing uterine cancer in adulthood. These symptoms and consequences can have a negative impact on body image and mental health.

PCOS can be associated with other related health disorders including obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In many cases, the signs and symptoms of PCOS develop in adolescence. Early diagnosis is important to most effectively treat symptoms and to prevent complications and other associated conditions. Due to the systemic effects of PCOS, it requires a multidisciplinary team of physicians to properly care for the whole patient.

In normal ovulation, the egg (follicle) ruptures through the outer surface (capsule) of the ovary. In women with PCOS, high androgen levels cause an excess number of small follicles to grow, but interfere with ovulation, resulting in a number of follicles (eggs) accumulating under the outer capsule of the ovary. This is why the disease, has been named Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

Who can get PCOS?
PCOS symptoms typically start around the start of menstruation. Any woman of childbearing age can develop PCOS, but there also is a genetic component, so women are more likely to develop symptoms if another family member has it too. Women and teens who are overweight generally have a much greater chance of developing PCOS than those who are slimmer. We are currently learning more about possible prenatal and prepubertal risk factors such as poor fetal growth, low birth weight, and early onset of pubic hair.

Can it be cured?
Although PCOS is not curable, there are many treatments available to reduce the impact PCOS can have on health, fertility and appearance. The clinical team should include endocrinologists, gynecologists, fertility experts, primary care providers, cardiologists, weight loss experts, dermatologists, mental health providers and nutritionists as they are needed.

Every patient’s symptoms and goals are different and they may change over time. Nutrition and weight loss programs are paramount to help improve many of the symptoms of PCOS and prevent other negative health consequences. Many patients use hormone therapy to regulate their periods and improve excess hair growth and acne. A medication called Metformin may be prescribed to help control blood sugar levels and obesity. Aesthetic programs like laser hair removal help with unwanted hair growth. For women struggling to conceive, medications can be used to help ovulation happen.

How is Stony Brook helping women with PCOS?
Aided by a most generous donation, Stony Brook Medicine has developed a PCOS Center of Excellence, which will provide coordinated access to an interdisciplinary group of specialists who can manage the various components of treatment and perform research focused on optimal treatment protocols for PCOS. A dedicated nurse navigator will work as the main contact for patients, and help them arrange appointments and manage their treatment plan.

To make an appointment, call (631) 444-4686.

To learn more about PCOS and all the services provided, please visit our website at: stonybrook.info/aboutpcos

 

 

Symptoms of PCOS

• Irregular or missed periods

• Infertility

• Hair growth on face and chin

• Excess body hair including on the back, chest or stomach

• Male-pattern baldness or thin head hair

• Weight gain, especially around the belly

• Acne or oily skin

• Darkening of the skin around the neck or other body folds