Polycystic ovary syndrome
Originally Published: March 1, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 25, 2003
This is in reference to your Missed periods Q&A. Another cause of missed or late periods is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). A lot of health care providers don't seem to be aware of this syndrome. In this syndrome, missed or irregular periods are caused by unusual hormone levels, sometimes in combination with insulin intolerance. Because missed and irregular periods cause scar tissue build-up in the uterus (which may cause endometrial cancer) and may cause infertility, it is important that your readers know to ask their health care provider about this syndrome. There are obviously other symptoms and complications, but I just thought that I might mention it to you so that you might read up on it for your readers. Thank you.
Thanks for bringing up Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) as another possible reason for missed or irregular periods. PCOS is an endocrine (hormonal) disorder often characterized by lack of regular ovulation, missed periods (amenorrhea), increased body hair, and/or infertility. It is caused by elevated testosterone, estrogen, and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, and a decrease in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). PCOS is actually quite a common condition that women's health care providers and gynecologists see frequently.
The build up of "scar tissue" in the uterus that you mention is not scar tissue, but an increased growth of tissue, called hyperplasia. In the case of PCOS, since ovulation does not occur, there is no progesterone to counteract the effect of estrogen. Also known as endometrial hyperplasia, this process causes the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to proliferate rather than slough off or shed as it normally would during a period. After a while, this growth of tissue becomes abnormal (dysplastic), and even potentially cancerous. Suppressing the hormonal stimulation of the ovary with medication or by surgery is how this condition is usually treated.