February 21, 2002
Half of Women with PCOS -
Unaware They Have It or Getting Wrong Treatment
Disorder That Can Cause Infertility, Weight
Gain, Diabetes & More
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects an estimated 3.5 to 5 million
American women, yet experts believe more than half don't know they have this
potentially dangerous disorder or are getting the wrong treatment for it,
reports the current (3/12) issue of Woman's Day magazine.
PCOS is a bodywide metabolic disorder fueled by abnormal levels of hormones
-- the all-important messengers from the brain to every part of the body --
especially insulin. Essentially, the endocrine system goes haywire,
short-circuiting the hormones it regulates.
The disorder can affect everything from a woman's hair to her uterus, from
her skin to her blood sugar. It is a leading cause of infertility and can
also lead to obesity. Three-fourths of women with PCOS are overweight. All
may be at risk for diabetes, endometrial cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Studies indicate PCOS may be the most common cause of Type 2 diabetes in
Kerri S. Smith, the journalist who wrote this PCOS article and an earlier
one in 2000, states, "Like many women with the syndrome, for years doctors
told me that losing weight would solve all my problems -- especially my
chronically irregular or nonexistent menstrual periods. By the time I was
finally diagnosed, I also had endometrial cancer. At age 37, I had to have a
radical hysterectomy, and I'm still coping with a host of medical
How can a woman tell if she has PCOS? Here are the symptoms to look for
(some women have only one or two, while others have an array): irregular or
absent periods; trouble getting pregnant; miscarriages; overweight or obese;
excessive amounts of facial or body hair; acne; diabetes; high blood
pressure, cholesterol or triglycerides; dark skin patches around your inner
thighs, armpits or neck.
Though women with PCOS are still often misdiagnosed and underestimated, the
outlook is changing, reports Woman's Day. Drug trials and research studies
are underway around the country. The National Institutes of Health is
funding studies to help women with PCOS conceive. Walter Futterweit, M.D.,
of the division of endocrinology at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine here,
says, "Lots of exciting things are going on. It's huge."