Ovarian Disorders
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a set of symptoms due to elevated androgens (male hormones) in women. Signs and symptoms of PCOS include irregular or no menstrual periods, heavy periods, excess body and facial hair, acne, pelvic pain, difficulty getting pregnant, and patches of thick, darker, velvety skin.Associated conditions include type 2 diabetes, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, heart disease, mood disorders, and endometrial cancer.
Common signs and symptoms of PCOS include the following:
• Menstrual disorders: PCOS mostly produces oligomenorrhea (few menstrual periods) or amenorrhea (no menstrual periods), but other types of menstrual disorders may also occur.
•Infertility:This generally results directly from chronic anovulation (lack of ovulation).
• High levels of masculinizing hormones: The most common signs are acne and hirsutism (male pattern of hair growth), but it may produce hypermenorrhea (heavy and prolonged menstrual periods), androgenic alopecia (increase hair thinning or diffuse hair loss), or other symptoms. Approximately three-quarters of women with PCOS (by the diagnostic criteria of NIH/NICHD 1990) have evidence of hyperandrogenemia.
• Metabolic syndrome:This appears as a tendency towards central obesity and other symptoms associated with insulin resistance. Serum insulin, insulin resistance, and homocysteine levels are higher in women with PCOS.
Standard diagnostic assessments
•History-taking, specifically for menstrual pattern, obesity, hirsutism and acne. A clinical prediction rule found that these four questions can diagnose PCOS with a sensitivity of 77.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] 62.7%–88.0%) and a specificity of 93.8% (95% CI 82.8%–98.7%).
• Gynecologic ultrasonography, specifically looking for small ovarian follicles. These are believed to be the result of disturbed ovarian function with failed ovulation, reflected by the infrequent or absent menstruation that is typical of the condition. In a normal menstrual cycle, one egg is released from a dominant follicle – in essence, a cyst that bursts to release the egg. After ovulation, the follicle remnant is transformed into a progesterone-producing corpus luteum, which shrinks and disappears after approximately 12–14 days. In PCOS, there is a so-called "follicular arrest"; i.e., several follicles develop to a size of 5–7 mm, but not further. No single follicle reaches the preovulatory size (16 mm or more).
•Laparoscopic examination may reveal a thickened, smooth, pearl-white outer surface of the ovary. (This would usually be an incidental finding if laparoscopy were performed for some other reason, as it would not be routine to examine the ovaries in this way to confirm a diagnosis of PCOS
•Serum (blood) levels of androgens (hormones associated with male development), including androstenedione and testosterone may be elevated. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels above 700-800 µg/dL are highly suggestive of adrenal dysfunction because DHEA-S is made exclusively by the adrenal glands.The free testosterone level is thought to be the best measure, with ~60% of PCOS patients demonstrating supranormal levels. The Free androgen index (FAI) of the ratio of testosterone to sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) is high and is meant to be a predictor of free testosterone, but is a poor parameter for this and is no better than testosterone alone as a marker for PCOS, possibly because FAI is correlated with the degree of obesity.
Some other blood tests are suggestive but not diagnostic. The ratio of LH (Luteinizing hormone) to FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone), when measured in international units, is elevated in women with PCOS. Common cut-offs to designate abnormally high LH/FSH ratios are 2:1 or 3:1 as tested on Day 3 of the menstrual cycle. The pattern is not very sensitive; a ratio of 2:1 or higher was present in less than 50% of women with PCOS in one study. There are often low levels of sex hormone-binding globulin, in particular among obese or overweight women.Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) is increased in PCOS, and may become part of its diagnostic criteria.
Premature ovarian failure (POF), also known as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), or primary ovarian insufficiency is the loss of function of the ovaries before age 40. A commonly cited triad for the diagnosis is amenorrhea, hypergonadotropism, and hypoestrogenism. About 5 to 10% of women with primary ovarian insufficiency conceive subsequent to the diagnosis without medical intervention.On average, the ovaries supply a woman with eggs until age 51, the average age of natural menopause.POF is not the same as a natural menopause, in that the dysfunction of the ovaries, loss of eggs, or removal of the ovaries at a young age is not a normal physiological occurrence.
Infertility is the result of this condition, and is the most discussed problem resulting from it, but there are additional health implications of the problem, and studies are ongoing. For example, osteoporosis or decreased bone density affects almost all women with POF due to an insufficiency of estrogen. There is also an increased risk of heart disease, hypothyroidism in the form of Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Addison's disease, and other auto-immune disorders.
Hormonally, POF is defined by abnormally low levels of estrogen and high levels of FSH, which demonstrate that the ovaries are no longer responding to circulating FSH by producing estrogen and developing fertile eggs. The ovaries will likely appear shriveled.
The age of onset can be as early as the teenage years, or can even exist from birth, but varies widely. If a girl never begins menstruation, it is called primary ovarian failure. The age of 40 was chosen as the cut-off point for a diagnosis of POF. This age was chosen somewhat arbitrarily, as all women's ovaries decline in function over time. However an age needed to be chosen to distinguish usual menopause from the abnormal state of premature menopause. Premature ovarian failure has components to it that distinguish it from normal menopause.
By the age of 40, approximately one percent of women have POF. Women suffering from POF usually experience menopausal symptoms that are more severe than the symptoms found in older menopausal women.Serum follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) measurement alone can be used to diagnose the disease. Two FSH measurements with one-month interval have been a common practice. The anterior pituitary secretes FSH and LH at high levels due to the dysfunction of the ovaries and consequent low estrogen levels. Typical FSH in POF patients is over 40 mlU/ml (post-menopausal range).