Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS as it is commonly referred to as is a metabolic condition that affects women of reproductive age. Over the years, PCOS as a condition has become extremely common, with almost 1 in every 5 women suffering from it. Women with PCOS mainly see signs like irregular, prolonged, or missed periods. There is also a significant increase in the levels of the male hormones – androgens that results in a range of different signs and symptoms that we will go on to discuss further in detail.
PCOS is often also categorized as a lifestyle condition due to the fact that apart from medical intervention, the only way to manage or reverse the symptoms is by making changes to the diet, activity levels, and stress management.
Here are the most common signs and symptoms of PCOS:
|Menstruation & fertility||No periods at all or lesser frequent periods of less than 8 times a year
Periods that long more than 5-7 days with an excessively heavy flow
Difficulty in conceiving due to fertility conditions
|Weight gain or weight loss||Gradual weight gain leads to obesity and difficulty in reducing weight regardless of being on an exercise plan and a caloric deficit diet|
|Hair and skin||Abnormal increase in hair growth around the body like upper arms, chin, side locks, chin, inner thighs, chest, and abdomen, called hirsutism
A male pattern of balding along the scalp
Severe acne that does not respond to usual dermatological treatment
Darkening, pigmentation, or discoloration of the skin around the inner thighs, neck creases, and below the breasts, called acanthosis nigricans
Recurring occurrences of skin tags on the neck, upper arms, neck, and/or underarms
|Mental and emotional health||Body image issues
Episodes of binge eating or starvation
Frequent depressive phases or anxiety attacks
Can PCOS Be Hereditary?
Absolutely! While there is no known cause that we can attribute to PCOS, in a large number of cases, almost 70% do infer that heredity plays a vital role in a woman being diagnosed with PCOS. If a woman’s mother has suffered from either PCOS or any other infertility issues, there is a chance that the offspring may be diagnosed with PCOS.
Why is PCOS Rising These Days?
With 1 in every 5 women now being diagnosed with some of the other forms of either early stage or chronic PCOS, recent studies have shown that more and more young women are being affected by PCOS. One of the main reasons is a sedentary lifestyle. Today’s generation of young adults fail to participate in regular physical activities and resort to consuming easily available yet food that lacks nutritional value; all of this while living extremely fast-paced and stressful lives.
Types of PCOS:
PCOS is a condition that is often used only as an umbrella term. On further investigation, your medical health expert will be able to tell you whether or not you suffer from a particular type of PCOS. Primarily, there are 4 different types of PCOS and we’ll discuss them in detail here:
|Insulin resistance PCOS||The body does not react to the function of insulin resulting in an increased blood sugar level||Weight gain around the abdomen
Reduced sugar intake
Stress and sleep management
Magnesium, Chromium, NAC, and Inositol
|Adrenal PCOS||Long duration of the stressful situation||High levels of cortisol and DHEA||Yoga and meditation to reduce stress levels
Avoid high-intensity exercise
Vitamin B, Vitamin C and Magnesium
|Inflammatory PCOS||Occurs due to chronic inflammation as a result of poor diet and lifestyle||Increased testosterone levels
Fatigue with headaches
|Maintain a healthy gut
Avoid trigger foods
Turmeric, Omega 3 fatty acids, and antioxidants like NAC
|Post pill PCOS||Stoppage of oral contraceptive pills causes haywire in progesterone levels||Temporary symptoms that can be reversed||Sound sleep
Magnesium, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, and Zinc
Risks Due to PCOS:
Unfortunately, the complications of PCOS don’t end with the basic missing of periods or weight gain issues. If left untreated or undiagnosed or even unmanaged, PCOS can lead to further chronic diseases. Let’s look at a few common ones:
- Metabolic conditions – hyperinsulinemia (high levels of insulin in the blood), dyslipidemia (high levels of LDL and high triglycerides), obesity, thromboembolisms
- Cardiovascular conditions – insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and increased cholesterol further leading to coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, and stroke
- Risk of cancer – irregular periods, anovulation, and oligomenorrhea that lead to increased risk of endometrial, breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer
- Issues with pregnancy and infertility – increased hypertension induced by pregnancy, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, increased risk of losing the pregnancy (miscarriage) or premature delivery
- Psychological and psychiatric impact- anxiety, depression, body image issues, eating disorders
Diagnosis of PCOS:
Up until now, there is no particular medical test that can determine whether or not a woman suffers from PCOS. Most often, the doctor has a conversation with the woman regarding signs and symptoms, period and medical history, and family, and lifestyle practices. Further on, the doctor may look out for obvious signs like acne or excessive hair growth. If needed, the doctor may also conduct tests to check on insulin levels. Lastly, an ultrasound or sonography could be performed in order to check whether cysts on the ovaries are visible or not.
Possible treatment for PCOS:
It’s true, there’s no permanent cure for PCOS. However, it definitely can be managed in order to reduce the effects it has. Other than medication, the only proven treatment is lifestyle changes. Consuming the right kinds of food, exercising regularly, sleeping well, staying hydrated, and managing stress levels. Only if this does not work, or if the condition is way too serious, should medication be administered.
And with that, we’ve covered most of what PCOS is. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s a lot more still to explore!