Contributed by: Dr. Snehal Singh
Irregular periods? Trouble getting pregnant? Excessive body hair? Check for PCOD.
Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) is not a new term anymore. Also known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), this hormonal problem is common in late teens and young women. In PCOS, there are fluid filled follicles in the ovaries, hence the name, polycystic ovaries. Some face this problem soon after puberty, while some may have it later in life. While the polycystic ovaries causes are many, effective treatment is also available.
The main reason why PCOS has gained more attention is that it can affect your reproductive abilities. Many women with PCOS find it difficult to become pregnant. However,timely tests for PCOS can help preserve your fertility with appropriate treatment.
Let us understand PCOS in detail
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is characterised by:
- Irregular ovulation or release of eggs from the ovary, causing irregular periods
- Increased levels of male hormones causing excess facial hair and other signs
- Fluid filled follicles that appear like cysts in ovaries and cause enlarged ovaries
The symptoms of PCOS mainly revolve around these features. If you know the warning signs of PCOD, you can take the right action. Though pain is not common, PCOS symptoms in some women may include pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.
Here is a PCOS symptoms checklist:
- Having irregular periods or total absence of menstruation
- Difficulty in getting pregnant and fertility issues
- Excessive facial hair and body hair, known as hirsutism
- Being overweight and difficulty in losing weight
- Skin changes – dark patches on skin, oily skin and acne, more on cheeks, chin and upper neck
- Brittle hair, loss and thinning of hair, dandruff. Some may experience male type baldness
- Emotional problems – anxiety, mood swings and increased stress levels
- Changes in blood sugar levels
PCOS is a matter of concern, not only because of possible infertility, but also because it increases the risk of other lifestyle disorders. Women with PCOS are at greater risk of insulin resistance and diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and heart diseases. To know your risk, get yourself evaluated for blood sugar levels, lipid profile and tests for heart risks.
Women having PCOS may be at increased risk of uterine bleeding, miscarriage,endometrial cancer and even liver disease. It is necessary to diagnose PCOS on time and begin with early treatment to avoid further problems.
What are the causes of PCOS?
The exact polycystic ovaries causes are not clear. It is believed to be a response of your body to certain changes. PCOS is mainly considered as a hormonal problem, triggered by hormonal imbalance. Changes in one hormone affects the others and creates hormonal imbalance. This can cause various medical conditions; PCOS being one of them.
Some of the possible factors influencing the occurrence of PCOS include genetics, resistance to insulin and any hormonal imbalance. Insulin, can interfere with normal ovarian function, cause excess production of male hormones and also result in weight gain. Also, many women with PCOS have some imbalance of various reproductive hormones. These factors can trigger PCOS in most cases. It is also seen that obesity and sedentary life may play an important role.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
PCOS can be diagnosed based on clinical symptoms, history and physical examination, along with certain investigations. Your doctor will advise blood tests that help to measure hormone levels, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Get your PCOS tests done to check your risk for and to monitor existing PCOS. Doctors may also advise thyroid tests to rule out other health risks.
Investigations for PCOS include ultrasound scan to determine the structure of uterus and other details about polycystic ovaries. Based on the blood tests for PCOD and scan reports, a proper treatment and lifestyle plan can be chalked out.
What is the treatment of PCOS?
The treatment of PCOS varies and depends on the causes and symptoms in each case. Treatment is mainly aimed at relieving the symptoms. Medications that treat hormonal imbalance, excess facial growth, acne, hair problems are often advised. Doctors usually prescribe hormone medicines that help to regulate periods. Staying active, planning a healthy diet, maintaining an ideal body weight and quitting smoking is advised to manage PCOS.
Women who are trying to get pregnant but having difficulties due to PCOS may be advised further treatment options. Advanced treatments for PCOS are considered, if required,after conservative treatments are tried.
PCOS is thus a complex hormone condition that can affect various areas in addition to reproductive health. Teenage girls who do not get periods or have irregular periods may be at risk of PCOS. Women who have difficulty in conceiving or those with repeated miscarriages too can have PCOS. The earlier you get to know about it, the better is the result of treatment.
Go for timely health checks and get your reproductive functions evaluated. Get PCOS tests done and protect your health. PCOS has a lot to do with your diet and lifestyle too. So, watch your diet and manage your weight to reduce your health risks.