PCOS affects 8-13% of reproductive age women in Australia
And it disproportionately impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with around 21% affected. It’s the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age. Yet, almost 70% of these cases remain undiagnosed.
What the heck is PCOS?
PCOS is a reproductive health condition where there is an imbalance of male sex hormones (testosterone) and female hormones (oestrogen). Typically, those with PCOS have higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones (androgens).
This imbalance creates issues in the ovaries by preventing eggs from reaching maturity, thus preventing ovulation. This means irregular periods, lower fertility and a whole host of other signs and symptoms (see below) that will differ greatly between person to person because PCOS looks different on everyone.
And on top of that, the name “polycystic ovarian syndrome” is actually pretty misleading. It seems like there are multiple cysts on the ovaries. But actually, those supposed little cysts are actually small follicles that each contain an egg. Confusing, right? Wait till we get to the causes and symptoms below.
What causes PCOS?
While the cause of PCOS is not fully understood, things like genetics and family history, hormones, lifestyle and stress can play a role.
We do know that those who have immediate relatives with the condition have a 35-50% increased chance of PCOS. We also know that insulin resistance is present in up to four out of five women with PCOS.
How do I know if I have PCOS?
PCOS looks different on everyone, making it difficult to definitively diagnose.