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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome



Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that affects approximately 3% of women.  Common characteristics of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome include an accumulation of cysts on the ovaries, an appreciable increase in male hormone levels, chronic anovulation and irregular menstruation.  Other symptoms present also include excess facial and body hair, male pattern baldness, acne, skin discoloration, obesity and infertility. 


Treatments are aimed at alleviating symptoms.  These include medication to correct anovulation and to establish a regular menstrual cycle, and topical and oral medication for acne.  A regular exercise regime and a healthy diet may also be prescribed for excessive weight gain.  In some instances, weight loss reduce the levels of androgens and counter its effects.  In some cases, surgery is necessary to treat Polycystic Ovary.  Women diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome are at a greater risk for endometriosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and uterine cancer.


Diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome entails comprehensive tests of hormone levels and gynecologic ultrasound study.  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome has common symptoms with other disorders so a thorough examination is necessary.  Not all symptoms are necessary for the diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.  Women may have polycystic ovaries and still have regular menstruation and the reverse can also be true.  Physicians look at menstrual and hormonal abnormalities and should consider the complete clinical picture to make the diagnosis.


Although the exact cause of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is unknown, it does tend to run in families.  Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or who have familial history of this disorder might consider a new genetic test called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD).  Unlike other genetic testing available, PGD tests for genetic defects and can determine the gender of an embryo prior to implantation.  In Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, implanting only male embryos will ensure the couple that the disorder will not be passed on.  The advice of a genetic counselor should be sought to determine whether PGD will be beneficial.  PGD is also available for a number of other genetic disorders and is continually being improved to test for other hereditary diseases.



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Last modified: 06/09/04