Polycystic ovaries

What are polycystic ovaries?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as polycystic ovaries, is a disease characterized by a woman having an imbalance in her ovaries or female adrenal glands such that she produces more male hormones than normal. The consequence is the development of cysts (tiny fluid-filled balloons) in the ovaries. Women may develop the syndrome during the adolescent or reproductive years, and it is more common in obese women.

What are the symptoms?

Although sometimes no symptoms are experienced, irregular, infrequent or no menstrual periods are common. Other effects can be:

  • Infertility
  • Pelvic pain
  • Excess body hair on the face, chest, abdomen, and fingers
  • Baldness or thinning hair
  • Acne
  • Oily skin
  • Dandruff

Causes of polycystic ovaries or why polycystic ovaries occur

A woman releases an egg during the menstrual cycle. In polycystic ovary syndrome, the mature eggs are not released, but remain in the ovaries surrounded by a small amount of fluid. Polycystic ovary syndrome is related to alterations in hormone levels. The hormones affected are:

  • Estrogens and progesterone: female hormones that help release the ovaries.
  • Androgens: male hormone found in small amounts in women.

What is the treatment?

There is no cure for polycystic ovary syndrome. However, following a proper diet, exercise and drug treatment can help control symptoms.

Birth control pills can help regulate the period and reduce male hormone levels, so they are often a treatment for polycystic ovaries. When the ovaries produce multiple cysts of small size (no more than 1cm in diameter), it is called “micropolycystic ovarian syndrome”, which usually has the same symptoms. Likewise, the treatment of micropolycystic ovaries can also be based on the administration of the contraceptive pill.