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September marks Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is the most common endocrine disorder in reproductive age women, affecting approximately 10% of women in the United States. The disorder is also a leading cause of infertility. Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, research suggests that a combination of genetics and environment – particularly diet – affect the expression of the disease and symptoms. Newer research has linked a deficiency in vitamin D as potentially contributing to many of the troubling health issues associated with PCOS.
PCOS often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because symptoms often vary from patient to patient. But PCOS is a condition that is linked to host of serious health issues including Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and ultimately heart disease.
The disorder can begin to manifest in woman’s teenage years. Symptoms include irregular menstruation cycles, excessive hair growth on the face or abdomen, acne, unexplained weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
PCOS can have an enormous impact on fertility, and it is not uncommon for women to be unaware they have the disorder until they have difficulty conceiving.
Researchers are now looking at the link between vitamin D deficiency and its impact on the development of PCOS. In one new study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, a large number of women with PCOS also suffered from a significant vitamin D deficiency. Researchers believe their vitamin deficiency could contribute to developing or exacerbating health issues that are also associated with PCOS, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, insulin resistance (often a precursor to diabetes) and a cardiovascular risk.
“We’re very intrigued by this new research, especially its impact on PCOS complications,” said Dr. Sandy Goodman of The Reproductive Medicine Group.
Spending about 30 minutes outside in the sunshine without sunscreen is all it takes to get a daily dose of vitamin D. However, a physician may also recommend vitamin D supplements.
For women who have PCOS, other lifestyle changes are also suggested, such as losing weight. A decrease of just five percent of a women’s body weight can make a substantial impact on their chances of conception. There are also medications that can be used to help stimulate ovulation.
“While it sometimes takes more time for a patient with PCOS to conceive, we have successfully treated thousands of women with this disorder who have given birth to healthy children,” added Dr. Goodman. “Women with PCOS should never give up on their dream of getting pregnant or having a child.”