PCOS affects nearly 100 million women in India alone. However, nearly 70% of them go undiagnosed or do not receive proper treatment. This is mostly due to lack of awareness and also because a woman’s health is largely neglected in our society. PCOS is a chronic condition with no cure per se, but it’s symptoms can be completely managed with lifestyle modifications and medications.
When treating PCOS, we often focus on the symptoms that concern us at that point in time. However, by getting proper treatment you not only manage your symptoms but you also reduce the risk of developing long-term complications that can lead to serious and expensive medical conditions.
This makes it important for women to understand the long-term PCOS complications and what happens if it is not managed properly at the right time.
1. Metabolic conditions
PCOS causes a wide array of metabolic conditions, collectively known as metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is characterised by disorders like – high fasting blood sugar, increased abdominal fat, increased cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Any untreated condition that falls into the category of metabolic syndrome can increase the risk of further complications in the space of cardiovascular health.
Conditions like hyperinsulinemia (high levels of insulin in the blood), dyslipidemia (high levels of LDL and high triglycerides), obesity, thromboembolisms and cardiovascular diseases are prone to occur if PCOS or the symptoms of metabolic syndrome go untreated.
2. Cardiovascular diseases
Extensive studies globally have proven that women with PCOS are more prone to suffering from heart and cardiovascular diseases. Regardless of a woman being obese or not, the primary cause for this arises from the coexisting conditions of PCOS like insulin resistance, high blood pressure and increased cholesterol. Another major contributor for this connection is oxidative stress that is caused due to prolonged hormonal imbalance. Additionally, women suffering from PCOS have relatively lower levels of antioxidants that makes relieving the oxidative stress on the body a lot harder. m
All in all, females with PCOS who also pose a higher risk of cardiovascular disease like – coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis and stroke.
3. The risk of cancer
Because PCOS is primarily an illness that is first noticed due to irregular periods or heavy bleeding, the risk of developing endometriosis (thickening in the lining of the uterus) or even cancer of the endometrium becomes higher. Most doctors advise women with PCOS to undergo tests to keep a check on the endometrium. This is advised even if the symptoms are properly treated to reduce the risk of developing any unwanted growth in the endometrium. There has been no clear connection between women with PCOS developing endometrial cancer but the risk factors remain high.
On the other hand, women with PCOS may have higher risks to develop ovarian cancer because of the hormonal imbalance that affects ovulation. Scientists say that multiple ovulations or the presence of cysts increase the risk of ovarian cancer in women with PCOS. Since ovulations are mostly tracked when treating PCOS, it is also healthy to look into any abnormal growth in and around the ovaries.
4. Pregnancy complications
PCOS does not make you infertile but it can make it difficult to conceive. Also women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing certain pregnancy complications. For example, some women with PCOS are at an increased risk of miscarriage in the early months of pregnancy. Also since insulin resistance i.e. the body’s inability to absorb glucose from the blood is commonly seen in women with PCOS, they are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy).
Although women usually do recover from gestational diabetes after the baby is born, it can still put them at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in their lives. Pre-eclampsia, another pregnancy complication, is the sudden increase in blood pressure that is dangerous for the mother and the baby’s health. The risk of developing such complications makes it very important to have your pregnancy closely monitored by your doctor for a healthy term.
PCOS has no cure, but its symptoms can be reversed. However, you need to follow a healthy, sustainable lifestyle to prevent the symptoms from coming back. This makes habit-building a very important part of your reversal journey.
Because there is no cure for PCOS, it is recommended that women follow-up with their doctors in a timely manner to keep a track on small and long-term complications of PCOS. It is alright to ask a lot of questions to your doctor about managing and understanding this syndrome because this chronic illness can later become a risk factor of almost all the complications that are discussed above. So, the correct information, guidance and support is very important so that you can take decisions for your well-being and manage your symptoms properly. Maintaining a journal of symptoms and moods can help your doctor understand you better and can prevent the long-term complications from developing in your body.
Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician