Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are polycystic ovaries a cause of menstrual cramps?"
How do they affect menstruation?
Polycystic ovaries in themselves are not a specific cause of menstrual cramps, but do affect menstruation. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the main causes of abnormal ovulation in women. This syndrome is a spectrum of disease but the primary characteristics include hyperandrogenism (symptoms of increased testosterone such as increased hair and acne), irregular menstrual cycles, polycystic ovaries, obesity, and insulin resistance.
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Because it is a syndrome with a spectrum of disease, each patient will present differently with a varying combination of these primary characteristics, and thus it is often difficult to diagnose. PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women because of anovulation. This abnormal ovulatory pattern can present with oligomenorrhea (menstrual cycles that occur with more than 35 day intervals) or secondary amenorrhea (no menstrual cycle for more than six months). Often, these menstrual abnormalities will present near the onset of menarche. Persistent anovulation can increase the risk of developing endometrial hyperplasia which is subsequently linked to carcinoma. Oral contraceptive pills are often used to treat this menstrual irregularity and prevent the endometrial hyperplasia. Oral contraceptive pills can also often help decrease menstrual cramps and bleeding. Polycystic ovaries while not specifically related to menstrual cramping, often do affect menstruation. Please speak to your gynecologist or endocrinologist, who should follow this issue.
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