Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome In Teens
As if teenage girls don't have enough to deal with, many are encumbered with the additional issue of irregular periods, weight gain, and acne, all of which accompany a common health problem called polycystic ovarian syndrome. While there is no definitive cause for PCOS, there is a definite tie to hormonal imbalances.
Male Hormones Gone Wild
The sex hormones produced by females include estrogen, progesterone, and androgens. Androgens have the distinction of being identified as male hormones, although all women do produce them. In the case of PCOS, there is an overproduction of male hormones which can interfere with the development and release of eggs from the ovaries. Eggs which should be released during ovulation end up developing into cysts which then become enlarged. The fact that eggs are not being released properly causes irregularities in menstruation in women with PCOS.
Research over the years has indicated that PCOS may be linked to insulin production, suggesting that women with PCOS produce an abundance of insulin causing the release of extra male hormones. It also seems to be hereditary, which means that if a mother has it, the daughter(s) will likely have it as well. Left untreated, PCOS can be the cause of infertility, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, hirsutism, abnormal bleeding and in some cases, cancer.
Signs Of PCOS
The initial sign that a young woman has PCOS is menstrual irregularities or missed periods. PCOS can stop ovulation, which then stops menstruation. The problem is that it can take as long as two years for a young girl's menstrual cycle to become established, so the condition may go undetected until late teens. Other signs that indicate the possibility of PCOS are heavy periods that recur more than once in a month; weight issues such as weight gain (especially around the middle); and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. Hirsutism, which is the abnormal growth of hair on a girl's face, chest, abdomen, nipples or back; alopecia, the loss of hair from the head (female baldness); acne; acanthosis nigricans, which is dark, thick skin in the areas of the neck, armpits, or breasts; high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure are all additional symptoms of PCOS.
Diagnosing PCOS is done through an assessment of medical history, a physical and gynecological examination and blood tests to determine hormone levels. It is important for young women that the syndrome be diagnosed early and treatment begun as soon as possible. PCOS has the potential to create long-term problems, including infertility.
Treating And Managing PCOS
While there is no cure for PCOS, there are a number of ways to treat and manage the condition. Weight loss and healthy weight management are key to dealing with several of the health factors implicated in PCOS, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Hormone levels can be restored to normal function with weight loss as well. Androgen levels can be brought into line with the administration of progesterone, which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. Antiandrogens can also be used to help deal with hair growth, acne, and help to regulate menstruation as well.