How hard a female despises it still a normal healthy menstrual cycle is really important for her body. It not only controls fertility but has lots of other functions which are important for health as well as beauty.
One of the fastest growing disorders concerning menstrual cycle / female reproductive system is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Current research shows the incidence as 7-10% amongst women of childbearing age (15 to 45 years). In India, prevalence rates as high as 50% have also been detected. Let us learn more about this increasing menace.
What is PCOS?
The term ‘polycystic’ means ‘many cysts’. PCOS is characterized by clusters of pearl-size cysts in ovaries. These cysts are fluid-filled bubbles that contain eggs which have not been released from ovaries because of hormonal imbalance.
What causes PCOS?
The most common cause is lack of hormones which help in the formation and maturation of egg which is released every month by alternate ovary. This causes the egg to stay in the ovary without getting released and the egg gets converted into a cyst. In advanced cases the cyst starts producing insulin and androgens (male reproductive hormones) which further aggravates the symptoms. Excessive presence of insulin may lead to decreased sensitivity to insulin, called ‘insulin resistance.’
PCOS seems to run in families, sisters of PCOS patients approximately have a 50% chance of having this disorder.
What are common signs and symptoms of PCOS?
- Irregular menstrual periods—menstrual bleeding may be absent, heavy or unpredictable.
- Infertility: not able to conceive since 12 months without the use of birth control measures.
- Obesity; Excess hair growth on face, chest, abdomen, or upper thighs; severe acne or acne that occurs after adolescence and does not respond to usual treatments.
- Oily skin; Patches of thick, velvety, dark skin
- Multiple small cysts in ovaries
How is PCOS diagnosed?
Physical examination, testing of hormone and glucose levels and an ultrasound of lower abdomen.
Are treatments available for women with PCOS?
Treatment is tailored to each woman according to symptoms, other health problems, and whether she wants to become pregnant.
- Female hormone preparations help to regulate menstrual cycle, reduce abnormal hair growth and improve acne.
- For overweight women, weight loss alone often regulates the menstrual cycle. Even a small weight loss of 4.5-7 kg can be helpful. It also has been found to improve cholesterol and insulin levels and relieve symptoms such as excess hair growth and acne.
- Medicines used to treat diabetes are also used in the treatment of PCOS. These help the body respond to insulin; decrease male hormone levels and improve ovulation (release of egg from ovary). Restoring ovulation helps make menstrual periods regular. In women who wish to become pregnant, inducing ovulation is necessary.
- Anti-male hormone medications can be used to reduce unwanted hair growth and to some extent, acne and scalp hair loss.
- Proper nutrition and exercise is a critical aspect of PCOS care. Reduce intake of refined carbohydrates (sugars) and replace them with complex carbohydrates (starches, fruits and vegetables), have a high fiber diet and also add vitamins like B6.
What are the health risks for women with PCOS?
Women with PCOS are at higher risk for a number of serious health conditions like Obesity, Diabetes and insulin resistance, Hypertension, high cholesterol and triglycerides, increased risk of cardiac disease and stroke, Cancer of the uterus, Sleep apnea, Syndrome X or metabolic syndrome. Syndrome X is a cluster of diseases which includes diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Does the problem of PCOS improve with age?
The symptoms of PCOS are particularly troublesome for women during their reproductive years. As women approach menopause, they may notice that most symptoms diminish in severity. Some women may even begin to experience regular menstrual cycles. But the risk for diabetes and heart disease increases with age. 46% of ladies with PCOS were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome in a study conducted at Kolkata recently. It was observed that more women at higher age group (71.5%) were suffering from features of metabolic syndrome in comparison to only 20.7% in younger age group.
Click here for more on PCOS management