symptoms, treatment… what you need to know about this disease

symptoms, treatment… what you need to know about this disease
symptoms, treatment… what you need to know about this disease
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Malorny/Getty Images A hormonal disease that affects around one in ten women, PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in young women.

Malorny/Getty Images

A hormonal disease that affects around one in ten women, PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in young women.

HEALTH – “I have two healthy boys but for a long time I thought it wouldn’t be possible because I have what is called PCOS which is one of the causes of infertility. » In a video broadcast on Sunday May 12, Prisca Thevenot spoke about her polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal disease which affects around one in ten women.

This intervention follows the announcements of Emmanuel Macron, in an interview published on May 8 by the magazine SHE, on what he had previously called the “demographic rearmament” of France. The president notably announced the launch of fertility assessments and a campaign in favor of the self-preservation of oocytes.

PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in young women and also increases the risk of endometrial cancer. Those who suffer from it may experience periods of medical wandering before being able to put a name to their syndrome and, according to the WHO, up to 70% of cases go undiagnosed. Symptoms, treatment, impact on mental health… We take stock of this disease.

Symptoms

They vary depending on the woman, both in terms of their characteristics and their level of intensity.

Among the symptoms, we find an ovulation disorder, that is to say the scarcity or absence of ovulations (dysovulation or anovulation). This results in disrupted menstrual cycles. These may be irregular, unpredictable, very heavy, long periods, or on the contrary, non-existent. “These disorders cause infertility in about half of women with PCOS”according to Inserm.

The other major category of PCOS symptoms is related to hyperandrogenism. In the presence of the syndrome, “the ovaries secrete too much androgen and particularly testosterone”. This imbalance can manifest itself in several ways from puberty onwards. Among these symptoms, hyperhair, which affects 70% of women suffering from PCOS. This is excessive hair on the face or body, especially above the upper lip, chin, chest, back or buttocks. This hormonal imbalance can also be accompanied by oily skin and acne, as well as alopecia – hair loss on the crown of the head or at the temples.

Furthermore, weight gain is another symptom of PCOS, as well as difficulty losing weight, according to the Health Insurance website, Ameli. Female patients are also more likely to be affected by other health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Impact on mental health

Besides the physical symptoms, PCOS also has effects on mental health. As the WHO explains, the syndrome “can also cause anxiety, depression or negative body image. Certain symptoms such as infertility, obesity and unwanted body hair can lead to social stigma. This situation can have consequences on other areas of life such as family, relationships, work and participation in community life. »

In February 2024, a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine established a link between PCOS and poor mental health. To study the effects of the syndrome, Taiwanese national databases between 1997 and 2012 were analyzed to compare the trajectories of 18,960 women aged 12 to 64 diagnosed with PCOS, and those of women not affected by the disease.

The result was very clear: among adolescent girls, the risk of suicide attempt is 5.38 times higher if they have diagnosed PCOS. This rate increases to 9.15 times for adults under 40, and decreases to 3.75 times for older adults. These developments can be explained by changes in perception around fertility and physical appearance over the course of a woman’s life. In conclusion of the study, the authors highlighted “the importance of regular monitoring of mental health and suicide risk” of people affected.

The diagnosis

If a patient has several of the physical symptoms listed above, while she does not have any other disease causing the secretion of androgens, a blood test is carried out. In particular, it allows you to observe hormone levels, including testosterone or luteinizing hormone.

As Ameli explains, this “Hormonal assessment is carried out between the 2nd and 5th day of the menstrual cycle. In patients who no longer have periods, these are caused by progesterone treatment administered for 10 days. »

The Health Insurance website explains that a blood metabolic assessment completes the hormonal assessment, with “a measurement of blood sugar and possibly insulinemia which displays high levels in cases of PCOS” and a “lipid panel to measure cholesterol and triglycerides “.

Optionally, the diagnosis can be completed by a transvaginal abdominopelvic ultrasound. “to detect polycystic ovaries and exclude other possible causes of symptoms”. But this step is not sufficient for diagnosis and is not always essential.

Treatment

There is no cure for PCOS and treatment is only symptomatic. “It is based on an improvement in lifestyle, drug treatment in cases of hirsutism and/or infertility, and psychological support when necessary”explains Inserm.

In terms of lifestyle, a balanced diet and increased physical activity are recommended for overweight patients. This allows to “reduce hyperandrogenism and its symptoms”according to Ameli, in addition to having “a positive impact on the risk of metabolic complications associated with PCOS, and in particular a reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes”.

In terms of drug treatment, an estrogen-progestin contraceptive pill can help regulate menstrual cycles, reduce acne, hyperpilosity and hair loss. “Other medications help reduce acne or unwanted hair growth caused by PCOS”specifies the WHO.

In cases of infertility and the desire to have a child, several treatments can be considered, such as ovarian stimulation, ovarian drilling surgery, or, as a last resort, in vitro fertilization.

If you think you have PCOS, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

Also see on HuffPost :

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