As many as 5 million women in the United States suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The Mayo Clinic said it’s a hormonal issue which happens during the reproductive years. It’s also one of the most common causes of infertility.

Dr. Jose Meza, the Medical Staff President at CCMH and an OB/GYN, said the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but doctors do know it’s related to insulin and insulin resistance. Insulin is produced as a response to our eating. While it’s turned into sugar, he said it also acts as a signaling pathway to our body.

“It signals our bodies to know, ‘hey, there’s an abundance of food, you can grow. There’s an abundance of food so you can store up. There’s an abundance of food. So you can get pregnant. You can ovulate.’ It acts as a signaling pathway to allow the ovaries to know when it’s ok to get pregnant,” he said.

Dr. Meza said if there’s a little bit of resistance in the estrogen receptors, it doesn’t function correctly. He said patients with PCOS usually deal with irregular periods, fertility issues, and too much androgen, which is a male hormone.

“It actually creates a vicious cycle, I would say. You’re not ovulating, you’re not producing hormones in the correct fashion, and then you have these male hormones a little higher than usual, which further keeps you from getting pregnant and further keeps you from having normal menstrual cycles,” he said.

Dr. Meza said your body’s response to the issue is to produce even more insulin.

“Patients who have PCOS, it’s very difficult for them to lose weight, because you have a growth factor that’s constantly stimulated and it’s elevated,” he said.

It can cause other things like increased hair growth and changes to the skin around the back of the neck. Doctors can see Polycystic Ovaries through imaging because they will see small cysts.

“They will get a small little follicle, a small little cyst, that’s meant to grow and release an egg, but it just doesn’t,” Dr. Meza said. “It starts to grow, and then it stops.”

And that keeps happening month after month.

“Over time, what ends up happening is you get multiple little immature follicles that are all collected there in the ovary that never released an egg,” he said.

Dr. Meza said it can make the ovaries a little bit larger, and while he said he can’t change the fact that the insulin receptors aren’t working properly, there are treatments available.

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