New research presents long awaited answer to what causes PCOS

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Researchers claim the cause of PCOS begins before a woman is even born...

What causes Polycystic Ovarian Disease (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome/PCOS)? 

For years, research has attempted to better define PCOS, which is the most common cause of female infertility. Some studies link it to a woman’s family history and environment, while another study says these are only some of its many possible causes, which also include obesity and insulin resistance.  

It’s long been established that PCOS is a condition characterised by a hormonal imbalance. Now researchers believe its true cause can be traced to a hormonal imbalance even before women are born. 

What Causes Polycystic Ovarian Disease/PCOS? A Hormonal Imbalance in the Womb, Research Finds

About one in five women of reproductive age worldwide have PCOS. Women with this condition have more male hormones that can cause irregular periods and infertility. Aside from this, PCOS can cause ovarian cysts, obesity, sleep apnea, depression, high blood pressure, and in some cases, endometrial cancer. 

The most common symptoms include growing facial or body hair; some women can even go bald. PCOS can also contribute to long-term conditions like heart disease and diabetes. 

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What causes polycystic ovarian disease? Researchers believe an excess of anti-Müllerian hormone is to blame. | Image: Shutterstock

The increase in male hormones can inhibit a woman’s ovaries from ovulation or making eggs normally. Other symptoms of PCOS include heavy bleeding, acne, weight gain, skin darkening, and headaches. 

New findings from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research asserts that the cause of PCOS happens before birth.

Have they settled the matter once and for all? Let’s take a closer look. 

A New Discovery Paves the Way for Better Treatment

Scientists are linking PCOS to an overproduction of a hormone called anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), which is secreted by developing egg cells or sacs (follicles). A woman’s AMH levels provide hints as to how large her ovarian reserve is. 

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Now that we are one step closer to determining what causes polycystic ovarian disease, it can also help define the best treatment for it. | Image: Shutterstock

After experimenting on mice, injecting them with AMH while pregnant, scientists found that their offspring exhibited PCOS symptoms. Because of these excess hormones, they also had higher levels of testosterone. The group of scientists then treated the mice with hormone-controlling medication and soon found that the PCOS symptoms had resolved. 

“It could be an attractive strategy to restore ovulation and eventually increase the pregnancy rate in these women,” Paolo Giacobini, one of the researchers, told the New Scientist.

Though we might still have a long way to go in terms of finding an exact cause for PCOS, this is surely one step in the right direction, giving hope for would-be mums battling this condition.

 

Sources: New Scientist, Healthline, BBC

Also READ: What you need to know about polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS