Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Ovulation disorders are the cause of infertility in up to 15% of couples, and of these, the most common is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The most common symptoms of this disorder are found in women who have irregular menstrual cycles (generally longer than 35 days), an increase in body hair in areas where it should not normally grow (known as hirsutism), acne, oily skin and scalp and, on occasion, are overweight.
As in many other illnesses, the severity of the symptoms and the way they manifest themselves can vary from one woman to the next. It is possible for some women to have PCOS but not have acne or any of the other symptoms. However, they may never ovulate or may ovulate irregularly, making it difficult to get pregnant, which is why they can sometimes experience infertility.
It appears that in women with PCOS there is insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that allows the body’s cells to use glucose as a source of energy. If the cells do not use glucose due to this resistance, the pancreas (insulin-producing organ) responds by releasing more insulin into the blood. Excess insulin generates an exaggerated production of androgens (male hormones) in the ovaries.
Although androgens are needed as raw material to produce estrogens (female hormones), when they are in excess in women with PCOS, they produce some undesirable effects: increased body hair, acne, and increased oil secretion in the skin and scalp. The egg maturation process is also altered and ovulation disorders are generated. Furthermore, metabolic alterations in PCOS can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.