How To Deal With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Overview | Responsible Hormones | Causes | Symptoms | Risks factors and Complications | Diagnosis | Treatment | Lifestyle tips|

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is also sometimes referred to as Stein-Leventhal syndrome. It is a medical condition that affects a women’s hormone levels, that usually begins with puberty or can be experienced within the childbearing years of a female, i.e. 13 – 42 years of age. It interferences with the normal reproductive processes. It not only makes menstrual cycles difficult and unpredictable but also can lead to many other health problems and diseases. In this, the ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluids (follicles) and fail to release eggs regularly.

How common is PCOS?

Today unfortunately, it is a common health problem in women, not only in India but worldwide. This hormonal disorder affects millions of women nowadays.  

How does PCOS occur?

Men and women both needs both types of hormones, i.e. male and female hormones. Although the required  percentage of the hormones in men and women’s body is different.

Mainly, Estrogen and progesterone are considered responsible hormones for menstrual cycles, fertility, and other types of women-related body functions. That’s why they both are called female hormones.

Whereas, androgen is responsible for men’s features like beard, heavy voice, etc. Thus, androgen is considered a male hormone.

Men need androgen (male hormone) in excess and a very little amount of female hormone as well.

Whereas women needs female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in excess but male hormones also in less amount.

When PCOS develops, it creates problems in the secretion of female hormones problems with ovaries and the ovulation process by developing cysts in a form of a string of pearls pattern. And increased the secretion of male hormones, which male features in women’s body. As a result of all this, irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, etc. Occurs.

Fact: According to a study, up to 70% of women with PCOS hadn’t even been diagnosed.

Relation between hormones and PCOS:

If you have PCOS, that means your reproductive hormones are out of balance, and vice versa. This leads to problems with your ovaries, which further results in a form of irregularities periods, infertility, etc. Different hormones have different functions to do. Hormones related to PCOS are as follows —

  • Androgens – Normally, women have this hormone in very little quantity, but PCOS increases its levels in the body.
  • Progesterone –  also a female hormone, but with PCOS, your body will make less than enough of this hormone. Which results in delayed periods for a long time, unpredictable periods, etc.
  • Insulin – This hormone is present in your body to manages the blood sugar level. If you have PCOS, your body might not respond to insulin, the way it should.

Causes of PCOS:

The irony is many women don’t even know that they are suffering from PCOS. People consider PCOS as a rare disease but the truth is, PCOS is a common health problem now, with more than 1 million cases per year, in India only.  This figure is very high in reality, but women don’t go for a diagnosis, which makes them unaware of their condition.

Doctors are still trying to find the real reason behind PCOS, but still high levels of male hormones are considered as one of the best-known causes. Causes that can be the reason behind PCOS are as follows —

  • Genes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Obesity (indirect cause)
  • Inflammation
  • Excess of male hormones

Symptoms of PCOS:

It needs to be mention that some women can experience all the symptoms, some may experience only irregular periods and infertility, while some may don’t even have symptoms till they try to conceive. Symptoms vary from female to female.  The most common PCOS symptoms are as follows —

  • Irregular periods
  • No periods
  • Heavy bleeding during menstrual cycles
  • Polycystic ovaries
  • Lack of ovulation in the body
  • Facial hair
  • Body hair
  • Acne
  • Oily skin
  • Infertility
  • Tendency to develop type 2 diabetes
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Weight gains
  • Headaches
  • Darkening of the skin etc.

Risk factors and complications:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High sugar levels
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Premature birth of your baby
  • Miscarriage
  • Mood swings
  • Heart diseases  
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis  
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Obesity
  • Eating disorders
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • High bad cholesterol levels etc.

Diagnosis:

Generally to get a medical diagnosis for PCOS, you should have at least two of three symptoms:

  1. Irregular menstrual cycles
  2. Cysts in the ovaries
  3. High levels of androgen hormone

If the doctor found any two of these three symptoms than your diagnosis can start with these tests —

  • Physical exam – In this, your doctor can ask you about other symptoms that you are experiencing, such as excessive hair growth on the face and body, weight gain, etc.
  • Pelvic test – This test can help your doctor to diagnose any problem with your ovaries and other parts of your reproductive tract.
  • Blood test – A blood test can tell your doctor about increased levels of male hormones, cholesterol, insulin and triglyceride levels, and any other underlying issues.
  • Ultrasound:  It is used to diagnose any issue regarding abnormal follicles, ovaries, and uterus. Sound waves are used to do so.

If you have diagnosed with PCOS, then your doctor can prescribe you some tests to check for any further complications, if needed —

  • Periodic Blood Pressure, glucose tolerances, cholesterol and triglycerides level tests
  • Screening for psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety etc.
  • Screening for obstructive sleep apnea

It is to be noted that there is no specific test to diagnose PCOS, therefore, one may need to go for two or more above-mentioned tests, as prescribed by your doctor.

Treatment of PCOS:

For the normal regulation of your menstrual cycle your doctor can recommend you any of these medications —

  • Combination birth control pills (birth control pills decrease the male hormonal levels and can rise the female hormonal levels also, which can make your periods more frequent).
  • Surgery
  • Progestin therapy
  • Clomiphene
  • Metformin
  • Letrozole
  • Gonadotropin

Some medications to treat excessive hair growth are —

  • Birth control pills
  • Electrolysis (in this electric discharge is used to destroy your hair follicles to reduce the hair growth all over the body and face)
  • Spironolactone
  • Eflornithine

Lifestyle changes:

  • Losing some weight can have a great impact on your infertility and irregular menstrual cycles. Just lose 5 – 10 % of your body weight and see the results.
  • Exercise, yoga, and meditation must be in your daily regime.
  • Manage your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels
  • Take low carbohydrates diet
  • Eat food that has a low glycemic index.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
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