PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome is a lifelong condition that can only be managed than cured. The reason, why 27% of women have PCOS, is still yet to be known. Medical experts believe that genetics play a crucial role in putting a woman at risk of developing PCOS syndrome.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a problem that occurs due to an imbalance of estrogen, progesterone (the two female), and androgen (a male) hormones. The pituitary gland signals the ovaries to produce an egg regularly in the middle of the menstrual cycle. But, many follicles (sacs that hold an egg) develop in the ovaries and they most often (in women with PCOS) have immature eggs. As a result, the egg is not released in the middle of the cycle disrupting the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones. Higher levels of androgen are produced that disrupt the menstrual cycle resulting in fewer periods than usual.
What causes PCOS?
Genetics plays an important role. If your mother or other siblings have PCOS, you will most likely have PCOS conditions.
Obesity & Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a condition when the insulin produced by the pancreas is not recognized and utilized by the body to absorb the sugar present in the blood. As a result, the pancreas produces more insulin. Excess insulin in the body triggers ovaries to produce more androgen, the male hormone.
Women who are obese or overweight also develop insulin resistance. That’s why most good doctors insist on women maintaining a healthy weight, especially when suffering from PCOS.
Women with PCOS have increased inflammation in the body. Obesity or being overweight can be a factor in body inflammation. Higher inflammation leads to higher production of androgen.
Symptoms of PCOS
* Irregular periods with reduced frequency. This can lead to infertility as there is no mature egg released and the ovulation period cannot be calculated.
* Heavy menstrual bleeding. When the periods are not regular, the endometrium gets thicker and when it starts shedding, there can be heaving bleeding.
* Hair growth on face and body (like men).
* Acne – The male hormones make the skin oily that can lead to the breakout of acne on the face, chest, and upper back.
* Weight gain
* Thinning and loss of hair
* Headache due to imbalance of hormones.
What can PCOS do to your body?
* Infertility. Irregular periods and not releasing matured egg at regular intervals makes it hard for a woman get pregnant.
* Metabolic Syndrome. 80% of women with PCOS are obese. A combination of these can result in higher blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, low good cholesterol (HDL), high bad cholesterol (LDL). These conditions can consequently lead to heart diseases, diabetes, and stroke.
* Sleep Apnea. The body “forgets” to breathe while you are sleeping and that can disturb your sleep.
* Risk of endometrial cancer. As the thickness of the endometrium increases, that poses a risk of developing precancerous and cancerous cells in the endometrial layer.
* Depression. Infertility, growth of hair, acne, frequent headaches can dent the quality of life of a woman. This can push her into depression.
Diagnosis of PCOS
* Most often, looking at the symptoms and after a series of questions, your gynecologist will be able to conclude that you are suffering from PCOS.
* Then a pelvic exam may be done to check the size of ovaries and other parts of the reproductive system. A blood test may be required to check the levels of hormones in the body.
* If your doctor suspects other problems such as diabetes or possible heart problems, a couple of other relevant tests may be done. An ultrasound test may be done to look for abnormal follicles.
Treatment for PCOS
* As most women with PCOS are overweight, your doctor will insist that you return to normal weight. This most often gets rid of most of the symptoms of PCOS and in some cases, the periods may also become regular. Other medical treatments include:
* Birth control medicines – hormone therapy to restore deficit hormones and anti-androgen medicine to tackle excess androgen.
* Medicine for insulin resistance may be prescribed if the insulin levels are very high in the body. Change in lifestyle and diet may also be recommended.
* Hair removal treatment – Using laser or creams, unwanted hair may be removed.
* Minimally invasive surgery to the ovaries called ‘Ovarian drilling’ may be performed to restore normal ovulation by the ovaries.
PCOS is a lifelong condition and you can expect to get it if anyone else in your family is already diagnosed with it. Adapting to a healthy lifestyle with a regular workout can reduce the risk of having PCOS. Weight management is also a very important factor to be healthy and fertile when suffering from PCOS. If your doctor is putting you on medication, check with him/her if they are hormone related and you must let him/her know if you have any reservations against taking medicines containing hormones.