What is PCOS?
PCOS: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome- PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects the hormonal levels in women. The ovaries, female reproductive organs that produce estrogen, progesterone (hormones regulating menstrual cycle), and small amounts of male hormone [androgen] are affected during PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). PCOS is a condition that affects the ovulation process and its main features are:
- Ovaries with cysts
- Male hormones [androgen] with higher levels
- Skipped or irregular periods
Polycystic (many cysts) Ovarian Syndrome means many small sacs filled with fluid grow inside the ovaries. The sacs are made up of follicles and each sac contains immature eggs and these eggs never mature to trigger ovulation. Due to the lack of ovulation, hormones like the estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone levels are altered. Androgen levels become higher than usual and the levels of estrogen and progesterone become lower.
What are the causes of PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown but it is believed that high levels of male hormones prevent the ovaries from producing female hormones that help to produce the ova (eggs). Few causes of PCOS are:Genetic causeInsulin resistanceInflammationObesity
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
The most common symptoms are:
- Irregular periods or lack of periods
- Difficulty in getting pregnant
- Heavy bleeding
- Sudden weight gain
- Excessive hair growth
- Male pattern baldness
- Darkening of the skin
What are the effects of PCOS on the body?
Higher levels of androgen in the body can affect fertility and other aspects such as:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Endometrial cancer
When should an individual see a doctor?
An individual should seek medical attention when she has:
- Missed periods but not pregnant
- Symptoms of PCOS
- Trying to get pregnant for more than a year but unsuccessful
- Symptoms like excess hunger or thirst, blurred vision, or unexplained weight gain or loss
How to diagnose PCOS?
Following are the ways to diagnose PCOS:
- Woman with 3 or more symptoms of PCOS
- Pelvic examination
- Blood tests
What is the effect of PCOS on pregnancy?
Around 70 to 80% of women with PCOS face fertility problems and even increases the risk of complications during pregnancy. Women with PCOS may have double the chance of delivering the baby prematurely and are also at a higher risk of miscarriage, high blood pressure, etc. However, women with PCOS can get pregnant using fertility treatments that improve ovulation.
What are the treatment options for PCOS?
The treatment options for PCOS are:
- Birth control - For those who do not want to get pregnant and want to get treated for PCOS, birth control pills, patches or vaginal rings can relieve symptoms such as hair growth, protects against endometrial cancer.
- Metformin - can treat PCOS by improving insulin levels
- Clomiphene - it is a fertility drug and helps a woman with PCOS to get pregnant
- Hair removal medicines - eflornithine cream, laser hair removal, electrolysis, etc
- Surgery - to restore normal ovulation
What are the home remedies to treat PCOS?
Following are few tips to try out at home to treat PCOS:
- Lose weight, diet, and exercise
- Losing just 5-10% of body weight can help regulate the normal menstrual cycle
- Intake of low carbohydrate diets and low glycemic diet
- Moderate to intense exercise at least 3 days a week for 1 hour
- Some evidence proving acupuncture can be helpful in PCOS