PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Originally called “Stein-Leventhal Syndrome” after the two doctors who discovered the disease in 1935, PCOS affects an estimated 1 in 10 women worldwide. However, because the symptoms of PCOS vary greatly from woman to woman, it is also widely believed that many women who do have PCOS and should be receiving treatment remain undiagnosed.
Originally thought to be a reproductive disorder, PCOS is now recognized world wide as the most common endocrine disorder in women. It has been labeled as both a “silent killer” and “the perfect hormonal storm”. While it is important to understand that there is no cure for PCOS, it is just as important to realize that the symptoms of PCOS can be managed with proper treatment.
PCOS causes a wide variety of symptoms that have the ability to be truly devastating to a woman’s health and well-being. PCOS can be diagnosed in all phases of life – it is not a disorder solely affecting women of childbearing years. In the United States alone, women as young as 8 years old and women well past menopause have received a diagnosis of PCOS.
Although PCOS has been recognized as the leading cause of infertility in women, the reproductive aspects of the disorder are secondary. PCOS is not limited to women of reproductive age or potential.
Because the symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman in their display and severity, organized medicine has yet to announce an official definition for PCOS, and has considered re-naming the disorder. In the early 1980s, as more women began receiving a diagnosis of PCOS, research into the disorder exploded. Since then, the medical community has changed the criteria for diagnosis three times. Still, many physicians use their own guidelines for determining if a woman should receive a PCOS diagnosis.