What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) ? Symptoms, Cause and Management

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Early diagnosis and treatment along with weight loss may reduce the risk of long-term complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone-related disorder that affects millions of women, most without their knowledge. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) causes cysts to form on your ovaries. Cysts are bumps that are filled with fluid. The cysts can prevent your ovaries from working correctly.

Women with PCOS have higher male hormonal levels which cause imbalances in the menstrual cycle and make it difficult for them to conceive. The higher levels of androgen lead to acne, excess body hair, weight gain, etc. A healthy lifestyle with regular exercise can fix the hormonal imbalance.

Causes

The exact cause of PCOS is still not known. It is believed that increased insulin levels may cause the ovaries to produce higher than normal amounts of male hormones. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and helps your body use sugar.

Your risk may be increased if you have a family member with PCOS or other ovarian diseases. It is reported that 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can also lead to obesity which increases the risk for type 2 diabetes.

In some cases, it is found that women with PCOS have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies. Weight gain also leads to inflammation. Studies suggest that increased levels of inflammation are linked to higher androgen levels.


Signs and symptoms

Some women experience the signs of PCOS around the time of their first period while others discover gaining weight or when they find difficulty in getting pregnant.

The most common of them are :

• Irregular or absent monthly periods

• Increased hair growth on the face, chest, around the nipples, or lower abdomen

• Thinning of scalp hair

• Weight gain and fatigue

• High blood sugar levels or high blood pressure

• Infertility (problem getting pregnant)

• Acne, darkening of the skin, or skin tags

• Pelvic or abdominal pain


How to diagnose PCOS?

• Blood tests to test hormone and blood sugar levels.

• The pelvic exam checks the size and shape of the uterus, cervix, and ovaries,

• Vaginal ultrasound to check cysts


How PCOS affect your body?

Higher levels of androgen can affect your body in several ways :

• PCOS is the leading cause of infertility as women with PCOS don’t release as many eggs to be fertilized.

• Most of the women with PCOS are overweight or obese which increases the risk for high blood sugar, high BP, low HDL. These factors contribute to metabolic syndrome that increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

• PCOS can also increase the risk of sleep apnea, endometrial cancer, and depression.


How to manage PCOS?

• Manage your blood sugar and blood pressure

Keep a record and bring this to your follow-up visits. Blood sugar is measured with a glucose monitor.  

• Maintain a healthy weight

Create a weight loss plan if you are overweight. Weight loss may help reduce the complications of PCOS.

• Exercise

Exercise can help decrease blood sugar and blood pressure. It may also help with weight loss.

• Eat a variety of healthy foods

Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. A dietician may help you plan meals that are lower in carbohydrates to help you manage your blood sugar levels.

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