Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders and affects millions of women worldwide each year. Also known as polycystic ovary disease, PCOS is marked by the following:
- Presence of multiple cysts in the ovaries (polycystic ovaries): Cysts are harmless sacs in which eggs develop. In PCOS, these sacs are unable to release an egg. Do note that having polycystic ovaries does not necessarily mean that you have PCOS.
- Anovulation or no ovulation: The ovaries are unable to ovulate or release eggs regularly, affecting menstruation cycle and fertility.
- High levels of some hormones in the body, including androgens or male hormones.
If undetected, PCOS may increase a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol imbalance and heart disease.
Statistics show that PCOS affects about 5-10% of women of childbearing age and is often the main cause of female infertility in 70% of the cases. It is estimated that every 1 in 5 women in the UK and almost 30% Indian women in reproductive age have PCOS. Cases of PCOS have also been diagnosed in pre-teens, teens and post-menopausal women. A 2011 study by the Division of Yoga and Life Sciences, SVYASA University, Bangalore, concluded that 9.13% in Indian adolescents are affected by PCOS.
Additionally studies have shown that 40% of women aged 20-50 years and having diabetes and/or glucose intolerance have PCOS.
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
PCOS is said to be caused by abnormally high levels of some hormones in a woman’s body, including insulin and the male hormone testosterone. Some common signs and symptoms of PCOS are irregular periods, weight gain, hair loss, excess body hair, dark patches on skin, infertility, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, ovarian cysts, reduced sex drive, pelvic pain, stress and anxiety.
PCOs cannot be diagnosed with a single test. Based on symptoms, your doctor may conduct a pelvic exam, ultrasound of the ovaries, and blood tests to measure sugar, cholesterol and hormone levels.
Although PCOS cannot be cured, its symptoms can be treated with lifestyle changes such as maintaining optimal body weight and eating a healthy diet. Irregular periods and excess body hair can be treated with oral medication which may include birth-control pills or hormone tablets. LOD or laparoscopic ovarian drilling may be used to treat infertility.
In many women, PCOS could be genetic and therefore not preventable. However early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent health complications caused by PCOS. Here are some tips that may help reduce symptoms of PCOS.
- Lose excess weight as it helps to normalize hormone levels and ease PCOS symptoms.
- Eat low GI (glycemic index) foods to control blood sugar levels.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements may be taken to relieve symptoms.
- Get regular screening for cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
- Quit smoking to reduce your risk of heart disease, hormonal imbalance and infertility.
- Limit intake of tea, coffee and other stimulants.
- Seek treatment only from a qualified medical specialist.