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What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (also called PCOS) is a fairly common condition. PCOS affects literally millions of women in the United Kingdom. The condition affects the functioning of your ovaries.

If you present with two features out of the following three for PCOS, then your IPSA Medical specialist will probably confirm that you have PCOS.

The first feature is having polycystic ovaries, which is when multiple, small cysts have formed on your ovaries. The next standard feature of PCOS is that you experience what is called ‘ovulation difficulties’ when the eggs are not released at regular intervals from your ovaries, and the third feature is that you will present with high androgen levels in your system. Androgens are commonly called the ‘male’ hormones.

Your IPSA Medical PCOS consultation

At your IPSA Medical clinic, your female IPSA Medical practitioner will undertake your PCOS consultation in IPSA Medical’s calm and confidential clinic. At IPSA Medical, your clinician always works holistically with you, taking your PCOS symptoms seriously, and treating you with a client-centred approach, where your family history/current lifestyle will be fully engaged with so that your PCOS can be properly assessed. If you have worries concerning conception, then your IPSA Medical practitioner is able to refer you on the same day to our IPSA Medical fertility clinic.

What tests are required for PCOS?

At your IPSA Medical PCOS consultation, you might be offered a USS (which is an ultrasound scan) or blood tests to confirm the PCOS diagnosis.

What are polycystic ovaries?

If you have polycystic ovaries, then your ovaries contain multiple harmless cysts. These harmless under-developed fluid-filled sacs can be anything up to 8mm wide. Your eggs develop within these sacs; however, when you are a PCOS sufferer, your sacs are often unable to release your eggs and so you do not ovulate.

What are the signs and symptoms of having PCOS?

It is thought that 20% of British women will have polycystic ovaries, with more than half of those not experiencing any symptoms.

For those experiencing the symptoms of PCOS, it is in the late teens or early twenties when PCOS symptoms tend to become apparent.

PCOS symptoms:

  • Because of a failure to ovulate or irregular ovulation, there can be issues when trying to conceive
  • No periods/irregular periods
  • Gaining weight
  • Oily skin, greasy skin, or acne
  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • Hirsutism (this is when your hair grows excessively, usually on areas such as your face, buttocks, back or chest)

Speak to your IPSA Medical physician if you do have any PCOS symptoms or if you suspect you might be suffering from PCOS.

Why does PCOS develop?

PCOS can run in the family, but the exact cause for the disorder is not known.

An association has been shown to exist between abnormal hormone levels and PCOS, for example, women presenting with PCOS often have high insulin levels. Insulin works by controlling the sugar level in your body, with too much insulin increasing both the production and activity of hormones such as testosterone.

In addition, when overweight, you also produce comparatively more insulin.

PCOS and risks in your later life

As you get older, if you have PCOS, then you have a slightly higher risk in terms of developing additional problems such as:

  • Mood swings/depression (and this can be due to your confidence/self-esteem being affected by your PCOS symptoms)
  • Type 2 diabetes (because you have high blood sugar levels)
  • Sleep apnoea (which is often linked to being overweight and leads to interrupted breathing during sleep)
  • High blood pressure/high cholesterol (which increase your risk of both heart disease and strokes)

What treatments are there for PCOS at the IPSA Medical clinic?

Although the symptoms of PCOS can be treated, there is no known PCOS cure.

Losing weight and following a healthy diet are recommended for those who are overweight, as this helps to counter some of the weight-related symptoms.

Symptoms that can be treated with medication include: irregular periods, issues around fertility or excessive hair growth.

Your IPSA Medical specialist might suggest hormonal treatment for both pain control and cyst reduction. The options for managing your PCOS will be fully explained to you and discussed with you when you are undergoing your IPSA Medical PCOS consultation, so that the best PCOS management plan to suit your particular PCOS symptomology can be determined by your IPSA Medical specialist.

Is there an issue with fertility if I have PCOS?

To maximise the likelihood of conception if you do have PCOS, early referral to IPSA Medical’s fertility clinic is highly recommended, because post-treatment, most women presenting with PCOS are able to fall pregnant. This is why your IPSA Medical specialist will offer you immediate referral to a fertility clinic if you have any worries concerning conception.

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