PCOS - The forgotten condition
PCOS - The forgotten condition
Professor Ellis Downes, consultant gynaecologist at The Wellington Hospital, discusses Poly-Cystic
Ovarian Syndrome, a condition affecting millions of women in the UK
oly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition
affecting up to 10% of women and is one of the most common
causes of sub-fertility, as it creates problems with ovulation.
PCOS is so-named due to the ultrasound appearance of lots of
small, harmless cysts found on the ovary. These can lead to higher
than normal levels of male hormones, chiefly testosterone, which can
cause weight gain, heavy irregular periods, lack of ovulation and an
increase in body or facial hair. PCOS can develop spontaneously, most
commonly in the teenage years, twenties or thirties; interestingly,
recent research has identified that it also has a genetic element.
• Excessive body hair
• Irregular or light periods
• Problems getting pregnant
• Weight gain
• Acne • Hair loss from the head
If you have some, or all of these symptoms, you might have PCOS.
Diagnosis and treatments
PCOS is diagnosed by a combination of an ultrasound scan
examination of the ovaries, and hormone blood tests taken on the first
few days of the menstrual cycle.
Treatment for PCOS consists of lifestyle measures in combination
with hormone treatment. Hormone treatment can be very effective to
regulate periods, treat excess body and facial hair or to get the ovaries
ovulating regularly. The exact treatment depends on the underlying
symptoms, and is generally very successful.
Any woman worried she may have PCOS should see a gynaecologist,
who can carry out investigations that
hopefully lead to prompt successful
More information about
PCOS is available at
Verity is an excellent
charity which raises
awareness of PCOS.
You’re not alone
We look at how this common condition affects health and fertility and
Professor Ellis Downes is an experienced
Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist in
full-time independent practice. He has many
years experience of treating gynaecological
conditions and is invited to share his
experience lecturing and teaching around the
world. He has a keen interest in key hole
surgery and bladder problems and sees
many women with endometriosis,
pelvic pain and urinary
the treatments available today
Often the first question a newly diagnosed Poly-Cystic Ovarian
Syndrome sufferer will ask is whether they will be able to have children.
Though PCOS can cause fertility issues, and many women do not
realise they may have PCOS until they struggle to conceive, statistics
show that despite higher risk pregnancies, a large percentage of
women with the condition still go on to have healthy babies.
Sufferers of PCOS will have raised testosterone, oestrogen
and insulin levels, and if left untreated it can lead to other health
problems later in life such as Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and
high blood pressure. Although there is no cure for PCOS, the good
news is there are a number of treatments available to women who are
diagnosed with this condition.
Recent research studies have shown that reducing Body Mass
Index (BMI) improves symptoms of PCOS and that maintaining a
healthy weight, eating healthily and regularly exercising will reduce
the risk of developing any associated long-term health problems.
A vast amount of patients respond well to hormone treatment,
which balances these excessive hormones and reduces some of the
symptoms such as thinning hair and unwanted body hair. Certain
types of contraceptive pills can be prescribed to encourage regular
periods and alleviate acne.
Surgery is not generally needed for PCOS, but occasionally, if
patients do not respond to medication to encourage ovulation,
options such as ovarian drilling, which uses key-hole surgery to
make tiny scorch marks on the ovaries can be offered. This corrects
hormone imbalance by restoring the normal function of the ovaries
by destroying the tissue that’s producing male hormones.
PCOS is a common condition which can be easily treated; if you
have any number of the symptoms mentioned earlier, make an
appointment and get it checked out.
For further information and updates, please visit
The Wellington Hospital www.thewellingtonhospital.com
or contact the Enquiry Helpline on 020 7483 5148
t h e M AY FA I R m a g a z i n e