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Battling Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), together!

16th Sep, 2020
Battling Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), together!

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is a condition caused due to imbalance of hormones that can affect women and girls of reproductive age. Although it is a common ovulatory disorder, at least 70% of women with PCOS remain undiagnosed in primary care. In India, one in every 10 women suffers from PCOS. September is celebrated as PCOS Awareness Month to spread awareness and education about PCOS amongst women, girls, healthcare professionals and the public in general. We talked to Mr Harsh Choksi, Medical Advisor on why it is important to start the conversation on PCOS and how can we make the lives of the affected women better and help them prevent or reduce Polycystic Ovary Syndrome symptoms.

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

“PCOS is a symptom or a group of symptoms that can affect ovaries and ovulation and have an impact on menstrual cycles, fertility, hormones and characteristics of overall appearance. It can also affect women’s long-term health. It affects 5-10% of women of reproductive age. PCOS is also called the Stein-Leventhal syndrome.

The word “polycystic” means “multiple cysts”. PCOS affects a woman’s ovaries, the reproductive organs that produce hormones regulating the menstrual cycle. Due to hormonal imbalance, polycystic ovaries are slightly larger than usual and have twice the number of follicles or “cysts” (fluid-filled spaces within the ovary that release the eggs when a woman ovulates).

However, having polycystic ovaries does not mean you have polycystic ovary syndrome. Around 6 or 7 in 100 (6–7%) of women with polycystic ovaries have PCOS.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Symptoms are otherwise undetectable. However with the right information and awareness, women can detect these symptoms and immediately consult their gynecologists. If you find any of the below symptoms in your body, talk to your doctor to get help-

  • Irregular periods or no periods at all
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • An increase in facial or body hair (hirsutism)
  • Loss of hair on your head
  • Being overweight, experiencing a rapid increase in weight or having difficulty losing weight
  • Oily skin, acne
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty becoming pregnant (reduced fertility).
  • Depression and psychological problems can also result from having PCOS.

The symptoms vary from woman to woman. Some women have very few mild symptoms, while a wider range of symptoms affects others more severely. But it is important for us to have that conversation to help women get help.

What causes PCOS?

The underlying cause of PCOS is yet unknown. Experts believe a lot of factors including genetics play a role. If any of your relatives (mother, aunts, and sisters) are affected with PCOS, your risk of developing PCOS may be increased.

However we can attribute the symptoms to abnormal hormone levels:

  • High levels of Testosterone: Testosterone is a hormone that is produced in small amounts by the ovaries in all women. Women with PCOS have slightly higher than normal levels of testosterone and this is associated with many of the symptoms of the condition.
  • High levels of Insulin: Insulin is a hormone that controls the level of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. If you have PCOS, your body may not respond to insulin (this is known as insulin resistance), so the level of glucose is higher. High glucose level in the blood leads to an increased amount of insulin in the body. High levels of insulin can lead to weight gain, irregular periods, fertility problems and higher levels of testosterone.

What could PCOS mean for women’s long-term health?

Women affected by PCOS, are at greater risk of developing long-term health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and cancer. Hence it is important that the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome symptoms are not ignored.

What can I do to reduce long-term effects of PCOS?

One can follow simple easy steps at home to combat with PCOS, by keeping their weight in check and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Leading a Healthy Lifestyle

The main ways to reduce your overall risk of long-term health problems are to:

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet. This should include fruit and vegetables and whole foods (such as whole meal bread, whole-grain cereals, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta), lean meat, fish and chicken. You should reduce the amount of sugar, salt and caffeine in your meal. You should not drink more alcohol than is recommended (14 units a week for women).
  • Work-Out: Exercise regularly (30 minutes at least three times a week). This will help you stay fit and make you less prone to other diseases and reduce the effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Symptoms.

Is PCOS Treatable?

Medical treatments aim to manage and reduce the symptoms or consequences of having PCOS. Medication alone has not been shown to be any better than healthy lifestyle changes (weight loss and exercise). Many women with PCOS successfully manage their symptoms and long-term health risks without medical intervention. They do this by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

PCOS needs to be talked about more so that more women can seek the help they need. This September, let’s spread awareness about PCOS and fight it together!”