It’s a medical condition that affects seven to 10 percent of women—and it can start during adolescence. “PCOS is also called polycystic ovary syndrome. It’s a common endocrine condition in females. It’s associated with hormone imbalance,” explained Dr. Sujana Reddy, a pediatric endocrinologist with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
The hormone imbalance can cause girls to have excess body hair, severe acne, and weight gain. “The girls with PCOS, they tend to make excess male hormones from their ovaries, and this causes a lot of signs and symptoms, such as menstrual irregularities,” she said.
PCOS Is also linked to insulin resistance. If PCOS is not managed in the early stages, long term health concerns can develop—things like type two diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, even anxiety, and depression.
“We check the male hormone levels in the blood, and we also screen for diabetes, check the cholesterol levels, insulin levels, and in some cases, we order a pelvic ultrasound,” said Dr. Reddy.
While the cause is unknown, doctors believe genetic and environmental factors could play a role. If a patient has PCOS, there are treatment options available. “The hormonal imbalance, like I said, the birth control pills take care of that. They decrease the testosterone levels, so they help with the symptoms like the acne, the facial hair,” Dr. Reddy said.
While PCOS is typically a lifelong condition, doctors say early treatment can help to manage the symptoms. “It is a very sensitive issue to talk to teenage girls about weight problems and PCOS symptoms, however, the earlier this discussion is, the better the outcome,” she said. Noticing the signs early can help girls get the treatment they need to restore their confidence and protect their health.
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