By Dr. Yuthika Bajpai Sharma, Gynaecology
PCOS or Poly-Cystic-Ovarian-Syndrome is a common gynaecological disorder in which a woman’s estrogen and progesterone level fluctuate due to disruption of normal ovulation. In India, it affects 10-15% menstruating women. The syndrome is caused by multiple factors out of which both the genetic makeup of a woman and her lifestyle are majorly implicated. That’s why it is commonly seen running in families.
The exact cause of this disorder is unknown but theories suggest that it is developed as a result of genetic predisposition and unhealthy lifestyle leading to weight gain. Weight gain causes disruption of ovulation by interfering with the ovulatory regulation. Over production of the male sex hormone, androgen can also trigger this condition.
The symptoms of PCOS can be noticed as soon as a girl begins menstruating. However, in some cases, these symptoms present themselves much later. In most women symptoms begin after substantial change in eating sleeping and exercise patterns for example young girls moving to college or young women few months after marriage especially if this is associated with weight gain. These symptoms vary from one woman to the next in terms of type and severity.
Infrequent or irregular periods are the most noticeable symptoms of this condition. It is also associated with excessive facial hair and hair on other parts of the body, thinning hair, and excessive pimples.
Rarely male characteristics like deeper voice and balding may occur .
Other symptoms include mood swings, anxiety and infertility. PCOS can also cause depression and affect self-esteem. PCOS is also associated with diabetes and high blood pressure. There is no definitive test to diagnose PCOS.
To begin diagnosing this condition, a doctor will first review the patient’s medical history and symptoms. A number of tests will then be used to rule out any other possible condition. A pelvic ultrasound is done to check for poly cystic ovaries. Blood tests will also be needed to confirm the hormonal imbalance. A blood test after fasting and eating is also used to check blood sugar levels. PCOS is not a disease, it is a syndrome or a tendency to ovulate infrequently.
The problem cannot be cured but can be controlled with lifestyle management and medicines. Tests recommended by your doctor should be performed regularly to chart the progression of the disease. The frequency of testing depends on a number of factors including the patient’s age and presenting symptoms.
An active and healthy lifestyle with good nutritious diet, at least an hour of exercise and proper sleep will lead to better control of symptoms. Many women will become symptom-free just by losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.