PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – Do I have it?


An Overview of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome


They say PCOS short for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome  – is not a disease. We agree to it. But that does not discount the pain, mood swings, and discomfort you undergo. Knowing more about the syndrome will help us take the right measures at the right time. Read on to know about it:

Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is one of the most common syndromes faced by teenage girls. This is not a disease but rather is a collection of signs and symptoms that affects the functioning of the ovaries. PCOS symptoms may appear during a girl’s teenage years or at any stages of adulthood. This condition is marked by enlarged ovaries and multiple follicles arranged in the periphery.

How to identify polycystic ovary syndrome

The first symptoms of PCOS are usually noted during puberty. In some cases, symptoms may also appear after significant weight gain. These symptoms include:

Scanty Bleeding or very heavy bleeding: A typical menstrual period lasts for 4-5 days. Women suffering from PCOS may see very scanty blood flow that lasts less than 1-2 days. On the other hand, some women may experience very heavy bleeding that lasts over a week. The latter is more common.

Irregular menstruation: Ideally a woman should have her periods once every 28-35 days. In the case of PCOS, this interval may be lessened or increased. A woman may have two menstrual cycles that are less than 3 weeks apart or may have a gap of over two months between periods. Some women may have lesser than 9 periods in a year.

Excessive Hair Growth: A higher level of androgen in the body can trigger hair growth on various parts of the body such as the cheeks, chest, back, arms and legs. This is more commonly seen in obese women. However, middle aged women may also experience thinning of hair on their heads as a result of PCOS.

Severe Acne: PCOS can trigger a late onset of acne or cause painful zits and cysts. These do not usually respond well to typical acne creams and lotions. In addition, PCOS can also cause oily skin that further aggravates acne.

Pelvic Pain: Severe abdominal pain and discomfort during periods may be a result of PCOS.

Abdominal Weight Gain: PCOS may be triggered by weight gain and can cause weight gain. It can also make it very difficult to lose weight especially in the abdominal area.

Signs of PCOS

  • PCOD can be diagnosed with the help of tests, a thorough medical examination and understanding of your family history. The tests needed may include a blood test, ultrasound and a pelvic examination. Some of the signs that may indicate PCOS are:
  • Insulin resistance with increased insulin and glucose levels after fasting
  • Presence of multiple follicles within the ovaries
  • Absence of a dominant follicle to release the egg
  • Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • Excessive male pattern hair growth
  • High levels of luteinizing hormones with reverse FSH/LH ratio on the second or third day of a period.
  • Vitamin D deficiency and Melatonin deficiency may be associated

PCOS and the Risk Factor

According to studies, if you have been diagnosed with PCOS, you have a higher risk for a number of other conditions. However, these conditions are not considered symptoms of PCOS. Some of the complications that can be caused by PCOS include:

Infertility: Multiple small follicles in the ovaries can keep an egg form being released and compromise egg quality. Without an egg, a woman cannot conceive naturally. Studies have also shown that medication to stimulate ovulation can help treat infertility.

Metabolic Syndrome: This is marked by the body’s inability to balance chemicals and process them to create energy. Insulin resistance and obesity are often associated with this syndrome.

Type 2 Diabetes: The combination of mildly high blood sugar and metabolic syndrome can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. This condition is marked by a decrease in the body’s ability to create and utilize insulin.

In addition, PCOS also increases the chances of gestational diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy.

Mood Disorders: Fluctuating hormone levels in turn cause mood swings and other such mood disorders. The risk of having these mood swings increases in the case of obese women suffering from PCOS.

How lifestyle changes help

PCOS cannot be cured but it can be managed with treatment and lifestyle changes. The main focus of such treatment is to address individual issues such as acne, obesity, hirsutism or infertility. Medication usually takes the form of hormone treatment to regulate menstrual periods and stimulate ovulation. However, these will not be very effective without a few lifestyle changes.

Diet: A well balanced diet is essential. Processed foods, sweets and salty foods should be avoided. A low calorie diet is often advised to help the person manage their weight.

Follow the Sun: The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian axis follows the sun. Hence it is advisable to regulate your lifestyle by the sun as well. Thus, all major meals should be eaten while the sun is up.

Exercise Regularly: To manage your weight a balanced diet needs to be complemented by regular exercise. Losing even a mere 5% of your body weight can help improve PCOS. This also makes medication more effective.

To summarize, PCOS is a hormonal condition that can interfere with a woman’s menstrual cycle. It can be characterized by irregular periods, acne, hirsutism, high blood sugar and prolonged heavy bleeding. Treatment focuses on treating these symptoms. With PCOS, it is important to remember that the intensity of this syndrome and its symptoms are largely in your hands. If you manage your weight well, have a healthy lifestyle and take your medication regularly, PCOS will be easy to treat.

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