Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
July 17, 2023
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that affects people with ovaries, primarily women of reproductive age. It is characterized by a combination of various symptoms, including irregular menstrual cycles, elevated levels of male hormones (androgens), and the development of small fluid-filled sacs (cysts) on the ovaries. PCOS can lead to various health issues, including fertility problems and metabolic complications.
What are the signs of PCOS?
Irregular menstrual cycles: Abnromal menstruation can involve the absence of periods or amenorrhea, as well as experiencing excessive menstrual bleeding.
- Unusual hair growth patterns: Excessive facial hair growth and hirsutism, characterized by heavy hair growth on the arms, chest, and abdomen, are prevalent in up to 70% of individuals with PCOS.
- Skin issues: Acne, particularly on the face, chest, and back, can be a persistent problem for those with PCOS, often extending beyond the teenage years and posing challenges for treatment.
- Obesity: A significant percentage, ranging from 40% to 80%, of individuals with PCOS grapple with obesity, struggling to maintain a healthy weight.
- Hyperpigmentation: Acanthosis nigricans, manifested as dark patches of skin, tends to develop in body folds such as the neck, armpits, groin, and under the breasts.
- Ovarian manifestations: Many individuals with PCOS exhibit enlarged ovaries and multiple follicles (ovarian cysts) when visualized through ultrasound.
- Skin tags: Small flaps of surplus skin, commonly found in the armpits and neck.
- Hair thinning: Hair loss in specific areas of the scalp or balding tendencies can be observed among those with PCOS.
- Fertility issues: PCOS stands as the primary cause of infertility in individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB), primarily due to irregular or infrequent ovulation, leading to challenges in achieving conception.
Is PCOS life-threatening?
PCOS itself is not life-threatening, but if left untreated, it can lead to various health complications. These include an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and endometrial cancer due to irregular menstrual cycles and lack of ovulation. Fertility problems can also arise due to irregular ovulation or the lack of ovulation altogether.
Causes of PCOS
The exact cause of PCOS is not fully understood, but it is believed to be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Insulin resistance, where the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin, plays a significant role. This leads to higher levels of insulin and androgens in the body, contributing to the development of PCOS symptoms.
Diagnosing PCOS involves evaluating a combination of symptoms, medical history, and physical examinations. Diagnostic criteria include irregular menstrual cycles, elevated androgen levels, and the presence of cysts on the ovaries seen via ultrasound. Other conditions that mimic PCOS symptoms, such as thyroid disorders or adrenal gland issues, must be ruled out before a definitive diagnosis is made.
Natural Remedies & Diet for PCOS
While there is no cure for PCOS, lifestyle changes can help manage its symptoms.
- Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can improve insulin sensitivity and hormone balance.
- A balanced diet rich in whole foods, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats is recommended.
- Foods with a low glycemic index can help regulate blood sugar levels.
What are the three symptoms to diagnose PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is typically diagnosed if you have at least two of the following three symptoms
- Irregular or missed periods: Having few menstrual periods or having periods that aren’t regular are common signs of PCOS. This can include periods that last for many days or longer than is typical for a period, or having fewer than nine periods a year that occur more than 35 days apart
- Signs of excess androgens: High levels of “male” hormones in your body, which may cause physical signs such as acne, oily skin, male-pattern baldness or thinning hair, excessive hair growth (hirsutism) usually on the face, chest, back, or buttocks, and a blood test confirming high androgen levels
- Enlarged ovaries or polycystic appearance of ovaries on ultrasound: Many people with PCOS develop many small sacs of fluid along the outer edge of the ovary, called cysts. These cysts contain immature eggs that fail to regularly release eggs, resulting in enlarged ovaries or polycystic appearance of ovaries on ultrasound
It’s important to note that not all women with PCOS will have all of the symptoms, and each symptom can vary from mild to severe
If you have signs and symptoms of PCOS, you should talk to your gynaecologist or endocrinologist who will ask about your medical history, perform a physical exam, and may order blood tests or perform an ultrasound to help with the diagnosis
PCOS is a complex hormonal disorder that can significantly impact the lives of individuals affected by it. While there is no cure, proper management through lifestyle changes, medications, and medical interventions can help alleviate symptoms and reduce the risk of associated health problems. Consulting a healthcare provider is essential for an accurate diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan.
People also ask
1. Is PCOS a Lifelong Disease?
PCOS is a chronic condition, meaning it lasts for a long time and may require ongoing management. While symptoms can be managed effectively, some individuals may experience fluctuations in symptoms over their lifetime.
2. Can a PCOS Patient Get Pregnant?
Yes, many individuals with PCOS can conceive with appropriate medical interventions and lifestyle changes. Fertility treatments, as prescribed by doctors, such as ovulation-inducing medications or in vitro fertilisation (IVF), can increase the chances of pregnancy for those struggling with infertility due to PCOS.
3. Does PCOS Go Away with Menopause?
PCOS symptoms, particularly those related to irregular menstrual cycles and fertility issues, often improve after menopause when hormone levels naturally decline. However, some metabolic aspects of PCOS, such as insulin resistance, can persist beyond menopause.
4. What Does a PCOS Period Look Like?
A PCOS period is often irregular, unpredictable, and may be lighter or heavier than normal. Some individuals may experience longer gaps between periods or even skip periods altogether due to irregular ovulation or anovulation (lack of ovulation).
5. Is it possible for a girl with PCOS to become pregnant?
The presence of PCOS does not eliminate the potential for pregnancy. PCOS is among the prevalent yet manageable factors contributing to fertility challenges in females. For those with PCOS, the hormonal irregularities disrupt the maturation and discharge of eggs from the ovaries, a process known as ovulation. If you don’t ovulate, you can’t get pregnant.