What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also called hyperandrogenic anovulation (HA), or Stein–Leventhal syndrome, is one of the most common endocrine disorders among women and has a diverse range of causes that are not entirely understood, but there is evidence that it is largely a genetic disease.
The condition was first described in 1935 by American gynaecologists Irving F. Stein, Sr. and Michael L. Leventhal, from whom its original name of Stein–Leventhal syndrome is taken. The earliest published description of a person with what is now recognized as PCOS was in 1721 in Italy. Cyst-related changes to the ovaries were described in 1844.
Polycystic ovaries develop when the ovaries are stimulated to produce excessive amounts of male hormones (androgens), in particular testosterone, by either one or a combination of the following (almost certainly combined with genetic susceptibility:
- the release of excessiveluteinizing hormone (LH) by the anterior pituitary gland
- through high levels of insulin in the blood (hyperinsulinaemia) in women whose ovaries are sensitive to this stimulus
The syndrome acquired its most widely used name due to the common sign on ultrasound examination of multiple (poly) ovarian cysts. These “cysts” are actually immature follicles not cysts. The follicles have developed from primordial follicles, but the development has stopped (“arrested”) at an early antral stage due to the disturbed ovarian function. The follicles may be oriented along the ovarian periphery, appearing as a ‘string of pearls’ on ultrasound examination
A majority of people with PCOS have insulin resistance and/or are obese. Their elevated insulin levels contribute to or cause the abnormalities seen in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis that lead to PCOS. Insulin resistance is a common finding among women with a normal weight as well as overweight women
- ENDOCRINE SYSTEM: It refers to the collection ofglands of an organism that secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system to be carried towards a distant target organ.
- GENETIC DISEASE: It is the result of changes, or mutations, in an individual’s DNA. A mutation is a change in the letters (DNA sequence) that make up a gene.
- TESTOSTERONE: A male steroid hormone produced in the testicles and responsible for the development of secondary sex characteristics.
- LUTENISING HORMONE: A hormone released by the pituitary gland that causes the ovary to produce one or more eggs, secrete progesterone, and form the corpus luteum, and causes the testes to secrete male sex hormones.
- ANTERIOR PITUITARY GLAND: The front portion of the pituitary, a small gland in the head called the master gland. Hormones secreted by the anterior pituitary influence growth, sexual development, skin pigmentation, thyroid function, and adrenocortical function.
- CYSTS: A closed, usually spherical, membranous sac that develops in human or other animal tissue and contains fluid or semisolid material.
- HYPOTHALAMIC-PITUITARY OVARIAN AXIS: This alludes to the connection between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and gonads. It is an important control mechanism mainly involved in the development and regulation of the reproductive system and immune system.
- FOLLICLES: A small anatomical sac, cavity or gland involved in secretion or excretion.