It's estimated that one in every 10 to 15 women
has polycystic ovarian syndrome, a.k.a. PCOS. But while the condition is fairly common, medical experts know surprisingly little
about the causes of PCOS — and even less about its impact on women's sexual function.
PCOS involves a cluster of symptoms, which means that individual women can have vastly different experiences with the disorder. Some of them may not even have ovarian cysts, as the name would suggest. To be diagnosed with PCOS, a woman just needs to meet two of the three criteria
: high levels of androgens (male sex hormones), lost or irregular periods, and polycystic ovaries.
According to Dr. Shannon Clark
, the hallmark physical symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, excess body hair, acne, and loss of head hair. But that's not true for every PCOS case; some women don't have any of the common physical manifestations, yet still experience the internal aspects of the disorder. PCOS is also linked with infertility, and many women with PCOS simultaneously suffer from coexisting metabolic and cardiovascular conditions, like diabetes and hypertension.
"All of this rolled into one can directly affect a woman's sexual function," Dr. Clark said.
So how exactly does this confusing diagnosis impact women's sex lives? We spoke to Dr. Clark and other experts to break it down. Click ahead for the info.