An 18 year old college girl visited my clinic last week. She always had irregular periods. Her mother advised her that her cycle would settle. But she started getting more pimples and gaining weight. All the women in her family are petite. After initial diagnosis and tests, she is diagnosed with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It’s not just one case, about 20% of women in India are affected by PCOS. The increasing trend of PCOS is predominantly seen in 15-30 year old women who are typically the college going girls, child bearing women, and middle aged mothers.
Women who are recently married and struggling trying to conceive, those started experiencing irregular periods, middle aged mothers who started noticing growth of facial hair, those experiencing weight gain even after spending hours in gym and following strict diet . All of them have a similarity – May be it can be PCOS
Who can get PCOS?
PCOS is a common endocrine disorder where there is an imbalance in the hormone production in a woman’s body. It is characterized by the development of multiple cysts in the ovaries, affecting the hormone production. As a result, it causes irregular periods, which is one of the main reason for infertility. PCOS is also due to the production of a higher amount of androgens (male hormones) from cystic ovaries. This results in acne, excessive hair growth, and sometimes male pattern hair loss. It could also cause malfunction of blood glucose levels, leading to diabetes.
Another potentially dangerous long-term effect of PCOS is the possibility of developing endometrial cancer and cardiovascular disease in future. Weight gain, dark patches under the skin along with irregular cycles lead to psychological stress along with depression.
In India, incidence of PCOS is estimated to be on the rise and is a cause of concern especially in fertility-related issues.PCOS can occur in any woman in the reproductive age group and often affects younger women.The condition sometimes runs in families, but whether it is a genetic condition or governed by environmental factors is not really known.
Early diagnosis has the advantage of being able to take greater control over symptoms and treatment ensures help while reducing the risk of complications.
- Most patients with PCOS are, ironically, first treated with oral contraceptive drugs. The reason for this is that these medications actually contain female hormones and are used to regulate menstrual cycles. So using these drugs may initiate regular bleeding.
- Treatment depends on the symptoms manifested by the patient. Women trying to conceive are given medications like clomiphene and metformin that stimulate ovulation and are usually effective.
- Body weight reduction appears to be very important in women with PCOS. Losing weight can help to reduce male hormone levels in the body and lessen symptoms like unwanted hair growth caused by excess androgen. Women with PCOS may also find their monthly cycles becoming regular with weight loss.
- Diet and exercise are also very important in reducing the risk of developing diabetes. Diets rich in fibre and omega fatty acids have been shown to be beneficial.
with inputs from Dr. Bhattacharyya
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