Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the most common endocrine disorder and affects an estimated 12-21% of women. Australian research suggests up to 70% of women with PCOS have not yet been diagnosed. The importance of this lies in the need to protect the long-term health of women with PCOS.
The exact causes of polycystic ovarian syndrome are not known, but are thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. PCOS presents as a collection of symptoms – irregular or absent menstrual periods, infertility or reduced fertility, hirsutism (excess hair growth on the face, chest and abdomen), alopecia (scalp hair loss), acne, acanthosis nigricans (darkening of skin in body folds), obesity and increased risk of miscarriage.
Many women with PCOS will seek medical help for one or more of these symptoms, without knowing what condition they are associated with, or that they are in fact related to the same condition. As each symptom is often treated in isolation, the dots do not get connected, the real underlying cause is not discovered and PCOS is not diagnosed.