Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common but often undiagnosed condition in which certain hormones are out of balance. These imbalances typically show up as irregular menstrual cycles, a higher level of androgens (a type of hormone including testosterone) in the body, and small cysts in the ovaries.
How common is PCOS?
PCOS is an extremely common disorder among women. About every 1 in 10 women is having PCOS, making it the most common endocrine disorder among women. It mostly affects women of childbearing age.
However, it remains undiagnosed and unmanaged in most people who have it. It comes to notice only when women have difficulty in conceiving or skipping menstrual periods.
Is PCOS an ovarian disorder only?
No, it’s not. PCOS is an endocrine and metabolic disorder that affects the body well beyond the ovaries. Not everyone with PCOS has ovarian cysts, but in individuals it is also associated with Type 2 diabetes, infertility, cardiovascular disease, obesity, sleep apnea (disrupted breathing in sleep), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and depression.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
- Irregular Periods.
- Heavy bleeding during periods or very less bleeding.
- Hair growth on face and body.
- Weight gain
- Male pattern baldness.
- Darkening of the skin around neck, in the groin, and under the breasts.
Headaches. Hormone changes can trigger headaches in some women.
What are the causes PCOS?
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes PCOS. They believe that high levels of male hormones prevent the ovaries from producing hormones and making eggs normally.
The main causes attributed here are-
- Lifestyle changes- sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits is the most important
- Genetic causes
- Stress and anxiety
- Increased insulin production and Type2 Diabetes Mellitus.
What are the problems faced by women having PCOS?
Infertility- PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
Trouble getting pregnant- PCOS interrupts the normal menstrual cycle and makes it harder to get pregnant.
Pregnancy complications- in PCOS, risk for miscarriage, high blood pressure, and gestational Diabetes increases.
Metabolic syndrome- Up to 80 percent of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Both obesity and PCOS increase your risk for high blood sugar, High Blood Pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. These factors are called metabolic syndrome and they increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Sleep apnea- Repeated pauses in breathing during the night, which interrupt sleep.
Endometrial cancer- During ovulation, the uterine lining sheds. If you don’t ovulate every month, the lining can build up. A thickened uterine lining can increase your risk for endometrial cancer.
Depression- Both hormonal changes and symptoms are likely to affect your emotions leading to depression and anxiety.
Treatment and cure
Unfortunately there is still no cure for the disease; however a number of treatment options are available.
Treatment for PCOS usually starts with lifestyle changes like weight loss, diet, and exercise.
Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help regulate your menstrual cycle and improve PCOS symptoms.
The type of dietary intake also affects PCOS. A healthy diet with low carbohydrates, good proteins, fibers, fruits and vegetables helps to maintain weight and metabolism. It is important to avoid junk food, fast food. Eating timed meals improves your dietary intake and digestion.
30 minutes of moderate exercise at least three days a week can help women with PCOS lose weight. Diet plus exercise helps you lose more weight than either intervention alone, and it lowers your risks for diabetes and heart disease.
Clinical treatment basically includes Hormonal therapy, which controls ovulation and other symptoms.
Is PCOS serious?
Though PCOS is problematic at times, but with proper intervention, self care and treatment it is possible to lead a healthy life. If untreated it may cause several diseases, may precipitate MI or stroke. Early diagnosis is important for better prognosis and ignorance is always bad.