Frequently asked questions on PCOS
What is it? * • Polycystic Ovarian syndrome – the most common metabolic and reproductive disorders amongst women of reproductive age. * • Characterized by an imbalance in reproductive hormones – Ovaries are responsible for sex hormones, both female and male (a small amount). These hormones are responsible for the development of ‘eggs’ stored in sac-like follicles (during each menstrual cycle). An imbalance like secretion of more male sex hormones (elevated androgen levels) as compared to female sex hormones, can cause these eggs to NOT mature and can form ‘cysts’ in the ovaries (In this case termed as ‘Polycystic Ovarian Disease’). Or it can cause irregularity in periods. * • Can be ‘structural’ – ‘cyst’ formation in ovaries OR can be ‘biochemical’- an imbalance in reproductive hormones, causing irregularity in periods or infertility. What are the causes? * • The exact cause hasn’t been discovered yet but research points to factors like heredity, insulin resistance & high levels of androgen. * • Genetic – Can run in the family. * • Insulin resistance – Insulin controls how the food is changed into energy. ‘Insulin resistance’ means cells not using insulin properly. The results in pancreas producing more insulin and that can result in the production of more male hormones. * • Inflammation – Obesity can make you more susceptible to inflammation. And, inflammation can lead to higher androgen levels. What are the symptoms? * • Irregular periods – Women with PCOS have fewer periods, because lack of ovulation prevents uterus lining from shedding. * • Unusual hair growth – Hair on face and body. * • Acne * • Weight gain * • Alopecia – thinning hair. * • Darkening of skin in patches – around neck, groin or underneath breasts. Is it linked to other health problems? * • Yes, several studies have found it to be connected to other lifestyle disorders. * • Diabetes or Prediabetes (Glucose intolerance) – more than half the cases have them. * • High blood pressure and cholesterol. * • Sleep apnea – momentary stops in breathing can abrupt sleep. Women with PCOS have high risks of having this condition. * • Depression & anxiety. * • Endometrial cancer – Irregular ovulation, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes ( all common in PCOS) can increase the chances of Endometrial ( lining of the uterus or womb) cancer. How is it diagnosed? * • Physical exam – blood pressure & BMI can be considered. Signs for extra hair on the face, back or acne or skin discolouration can be observed. * • Blood tests – For measuring androgen levels. * • Ultrasound or Pelvic Exam. Can it be cured? * • No cure as such but treatable. Treatment is directed at symptoms. * • The treatment and medication depend on symptoms and are case-specific. E.g. Clomiphene for inducing ovulation & Metformin to decrease insulin sensitivity Or a combination of both if needed. What are the steps to relieve PCOS symptoms? * • Losing weight and adopting a healthy lifestyle – can’t be stressed enough. A structured nutrition plan and a good amount of activity can significantly improve the condition. * • Stress management – Equally crucial as depression is quite common amongst PCOS cases. * • Seeking proper medication and guidance according to symptoms. Is pregnancy possible in case of PCOS? And how? * • Yes! It is a treatable cause. Proper medication and treatment plan are vital. * • Getting to a healthy weight by correcting lifestyle is advised before attaining pregnancy. * • IVF- In vitro fertilization – In case the medication doesn’t work, the egg can be fertilized with the partner’s sperm in a lab. * • Surgery – Ovarian drilling can be considered in which holes in the surface of the ovary can be made using a laser or heated fine needles. It can restore ovulation for 6-8 months. When to see a doctor? * • In case of missed periods. * • In case of several failed attempts at achieving pregnancy. * • Abnormal hair growth on face and body. * • Symptoms of diabetes like excess thirst, hunger, blurred vision, etc. Summary A healthy diet, regular activity, rest and stress management can definitely improve your odds of addressing PCOS effectively. Stay fit fam!