What is polycystic ovary syndrome? 

PCOS is a condition that can affect your periods, fertility, hormones and aspects of your appearance. It can also affect your long-term health. Estimates of how many women it affects vary widely from 2 to 26 in every 100 women   Polycystic ovaries are slightly larger than normal ovaries and have twice the number of follicles (fluid-filled spaces within the ovary that release the eggs when you ovulate)  Having polycystic ovaries on ultrasound does not necessarily mean that you have PCOS. Women with PCOS have symptoms as well as polycystic ovaries. 

What are the symptoms of PCOS? 

The symptoms of PCOS include: 

• irregular periods or no periods at all 

• an increase in facial or body hair (hirsutism) • loss of hair on your head 

• being overweight, experiencing a rapid increase in weight or having difficulty losing weight 

• oily skin, acne 

• difficulty becoming pregnant (reduced fertility). 

Depression and psychological problems can also result from having PCOS. The symptoms vary from woman to woman.    

What causes PCOS? 

The cause of PCOS is not yet known but it often runs in families. If any of your relatives (mother, aunts, sisters) are affected with PCOS, your risk of developing PCOS may be increased. 

he symptoms are related to abnormal hormone levels: 

• Testosterone is a hormone that is produced in small amounts by the ovaries in all women. Women with PCOS have slightly higher than normal levels of testosterone and this is associated with many of the symptoms of the condition. 

• Insulin is a hormone that controls the level of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. If you have PCOS, your body may not respond to insulin (this is known as insulin resistance), so the level of glucose is higher. 

To try to prevent the glucose levels becoming higher, your body produces even more insulin. High levels of insulin can lead to weight gain, irregular periods, fertility problems and higher levels of testosterone.   How is PCOS diagnosed?Having polycystic ovaries on ultrasound alone does not mean you have PCOS. Women with PCOS often have symptoms that come and go, particularly if their weight goes up and down. This can make it a difficult condition to diagnose, which means it may take a while to get a diagnosis. 

A diagnosis is made when you have any two of the following:

• any of the symptoms of PCOS as outlined above 

• blood tests that show higher testosterone levels than normal and other hormonal derangements 

• an ultrasound scan that shows polycystic ovaries.   What could PCOS mean for my long-term health?If you have PCOS, you are at greater risk of developing the long-term health problems discussed below.

Insulin resistance and diabetesHigh blood pressure Central obesityHeart disease (CAD)Depression and Mood Swings, Snoring and daytime drowsiness  

What can I do to reduce long-term health risks? Have a healthy lifestyle The main ways to reduce your overall risk of long-term health problems are to: 

 eat a healthy balanced diet. This should include fruit and vegetables and whole foods (such as wholemeal bread, whole-grain cereals, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta), lean meat, fish and 4 chicken. 

You should cut down the amount of sugar, salt and caffeine that you eat and drink. You should not drink more alcohol than is recommended (14 units a week for women). 

• eat meals regularly, especially breakfast 

• take exercise regularly (30 minutes at least three times a week).   You only have to lose a small amount of weight to make a difference to your symptoms and your health .Medical therapy is available for treatment of PCOD, but it is only effective when you follow the lifestyle changes recommended above.