Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Explained

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It develops when the ovaries produce too much of a male hormone called androgen, resulting in abnormalities related to female hormones and menstrual cycles.

What are the causes of PCOS?

The exact cause of PCOS isn't known, but it is believed that many factors are involved.

  • Insulin Resistance: One of the most well-known potential causes is insulin resistance. This means the body can't use insulin efficiently, and higher concentrations of insulin build up in the bloodstream and can increase levels of androgen hormones. These hormones promote male characteristics such as hair growth on the face and chest, irregular menstrual cycles, and acne.
  • Obesity: Obesity may also be linked to PCOS since carrying extra weight can raise insulin levels further and make symptoms even worse.
  • Low-grade Inflammation: PCOS patients frequently experience chronic low-grade inflammation. C-reactive protein (CRP) and white blood cell measurements can be done through blood tests by your doctor to determine how much inflammation is present in your body.
  • Genetics: Some evidence suggests that genetics might play a role in raising one’s chances of developing PCOS. 

When to see a doctor?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrinopathies (hormone-related issues). Visit a doctor if you see the following symptoms:

  • Irregular Periods: The most obvious symptom is irregular or absent menstruation. This can range from infrequent occurrences to a total stoppage of menstrual flow.
  • Skin Changes: Oily skin, acne, a deepening voice, and excessive hair growth on the face and body are some visible symptoms.
  • Skin Darkening: Thickening and darkening of the skin around the neck, armpits, groin, and other folds can be caused by PCOS. This condition is called acanthosis nigricans. 
  • Weight Gain: Most women with PCOS gain a lot of weight and find it difficult to lose it. However, although fewer, there are cases of women being underweight and also suffering from PCOS.

Possible Complications if you are suffering from PCOS

  • Physical Health Complications: Hormonal imbalances can cause significant health complications for those affected by PCOS, including infertility, miscarriage, or premature birth; gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure; nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (a severe liver inflammation caused by fat buildup in the liver); and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high sugar levels, and unhealthy cholesterol or triglyceride levels). 
  • Mental Health Complication: There are also mental health externalities associated with the condition. Women with PCOS often feel anxiety and depression due to their inability to conceive naturally. Such feelings can also be exacerbated by side effects such as weight gain, acne flare-ups, facial hair growth, or alopecia (hair loss).

Can PCOS be treated?

Treatment for PCOS depends on many factors, including age, the severity of symptoms, and overall health.

  • Diet and Exercise: A change in diet and exercise regimen can help reduce symptoms, lower blood glucose levels, and even improve ovulation. Supplementation with certain vitamins and minerals may also be beneficial.
  • Medications: Oral contraceptives can help with hormone regulation and treat excessive hair growth or irregular menstrual cycles. Medications like Ovadrel or Clomid can be prescribed to induce ovulation by stimulating the release of egg cells. Metformin can be used to regulate insulin levels and help maintain weight loss. 
  • Surgeries: Surgery such as ovarian drilling may be recommended if testosterone levels remain elevated following other methods of treatment that have proved unsuccessful.

With careful management and treatment options offered by healthcare providers, it is possible to reduce the severity of the symptoms and improve a woman’s quality of life.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Bengaluru - Jayanagar. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. What is the most effective treatment for PCOS?

The most effective treatment for PCOS is a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and dietary adjustments.

2. Does stress cause PCOS?

Yes, stress can play a role in the development and management of PCOS. Chronic stress can cause the body to release higher levels of hormones such as cortisol, which can lead to shifts in your metabolism and hormone levels that may trigger or worsen symptoms.

3. I am not overweight, but I have irregular periods. Should I consult a doctor about PCOS?

Yes, you should consult a doctor about PCOS, even if you are not overweight, as irregular periods are among the symptoms.

4. Can I get diabetes if I have PCOS?

Yes. People with PCOS are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes because of the hormone imbalances that occur with insulin resistance.

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