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Behind the scenes of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): one of the most common but little-known hormonal disorders in women

Dr. med. Roland Braneti

Dr. med. Roland Braneti

June 14, 2024

reading time

5 min

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also known as PCO syndrome, is a common hormonal disorder that affects millions of women worldwide. According to the latest data, around 10 to 13 per cent of all women of childbearing age are affected. From irregular periods to fertility problems, PCOS can present a variety of challenges. Yet despite its prevalence, PCOS often remains a mysterious and misunderstood health problem. To separate the facts from the myths and develop a more comprehensive understanding of PCOS, we sat down with Dr Roland Braneti, MD, Head Physician of our Fertility Centre and Gynaecological Endocrinology at the Women's Clinic.

Dr Roland Braneti, what exactly is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

PCOS is characterised by altered functioning of the ovaries. This can cause the female cycle to become irregular and, for example, the intervals between menstruation can become very long. Changes such as acne, increased hairiness or weight problems can also occur.

Why does PCOS occur? What are the causes of PCOS?

It is not yet clear how PCOS develops. In addition to female hormones, the ovaries also produce - to a lesser extent - male hormones. In PCOS, the balance between these two groups of hormones appears to be disturbed, which can lead to different symptoms. In some cases, the function of the hormone insulin is also altered, which can cause certain metabolic and weight changes. It is assumed that PCOS is a congenital change. However, this can manifest itself to varying degrees over the course of a lifetime.

What are the most common symptoms experienced by women with PCOS and how can they affect their lives?

One of the most common symptoms of PCOS is an irregular menstrual cycle. The intervals between two menstrual periods are usually longer, resulting in periods not occurring for a few weeks or even several months. If there is a desire to have children, the irregular cycle can delay the onset of pregnancy. Other common symptoms are acne, hair growth in unwanted areas (for example on the face) and sometimes hair loss. These are caused by the increased effect of male hormones and can be cosmetically very disturbing. If there are changes in the insulin effect, this can lead to weight problems and an increased risk of diabetes in the long term.

PCO syndromes show very different clinical manifestations from case to case. This means that women with the same diagnosis can have very different symptoms.

How is PCOS diagnosed?

In principle, there are three groups of symptoms or clinical findings. If at least two of these are present and the changes cannot be explained in any other way, PCOS is present.

  1. The first group includes changes in the menstrual cycle.
  2. The second involves certain morphological changes in the ovaries that are detected by ultrasound.
  3. The third group includes all symptoms that can be attributed to the increased effect of male hormones.

Even if there are no such symptoms, blood tests may show increased levels of male hormones.

What medical treatment options are available to women with PCOS?

For patients with cycle disorders and an unfulfilled desire to have children, medication can help to regulate the cycle. If necessary, it may be necessary to support egg maturation with medication in order to realise the desire to have children. If the main symptoms are due to the increased effect of male hormones, various drug therapies can help to improve the symptoms.

To the gynaecological endocrinology / hormonal disorders consultation

Holistic care at Zollikerberg Hospital

Understanding PCOS and finding suitable treatment options can be a challenge for women. However, through education, support and working with professionals, women can learn to live with this condition and improve their quality of life. Whether it's controlling symptoms, improving fertility or promoting overall wellness, there is hope and help for women facing PCOS and we are here to help.

Portrait of a smiling middle-aged man in a white coat, neutral background.

Dr. med. Roland Braneti

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