Is it possible to have polycystic ovaries and not have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

And conversely, is it possible to have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, but no sign of polycystic ovaries?

As you may have guessed, (as there needs to be a point to writing this blog post), the answer to both these questions is YES.

If you have a pelvic ultrasound and you are told you have polycystic ovaries from the images they can see, this in no way confirms that you have the condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

And likewise, you can well and truly have PCOS, even if the scan does not show up multiple cysts on your ovaries.

So what does it all mean? Are you supposed to have cysts on your ovaries, or not?

If you are of menstruating age and ovulating, the ovum (or egg) is produced from what is called “the dominant follicle” on the ovary. One follicle has to “win the race” to result in ovulation. If several follicles grow at the same rate, none of them win the race, and therefore ovulation does not occur. It is as though the system has “stalled” or “got stuck”. The appearance of the ovary will be of multiple cysts (i.e. polycystic ovaries). This can occur in any woman (including young teenagers) when ovulation is not occurring. So polycystic ovaries is a much broader situation than the specific “Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome” or PCOS

So what is PCOS exactly?

PCOS is a complex metabolic disorder involving hyperandrogenism (too much “male hormone” activity) and ovulatory dysfunction (i.e. not ovulating regularly), and an increased risk of insulin resistance. There is often (but not always!) overweight or obesity, and reduction in body fat is one of the most important ways of managing this genetic disorder. PCOS can neither be diagnosed by ultrasound alone, nor is it automatically ruled out if your ultrasound is clear!

And what can you do for PCOS?

Once a diagnosis of PCOS is established, nutritional therapies, lifestyle therapies and specific herbal medicines can play an important role in management. Herbal medicines should only be prescribed (and supervised) by a qualified herbalist.

To find out more, or to tell us about your situation, contact us at Equilibria.



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