Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a chronic medical condition that can affect your reproductive, metabolic and psychological health. However, PCOS symptoms often go overlooked and undiagnosed due to lack of awareness, proper treatment protocol and delayed diagnosis. Although it can feel overwhelming to be diagnosed with a chronic condition such as PCOS, it is important to remember that you can manage all your symptoms with the right care. Like any other chronic condition, the earlier you start your treatment, the better are the health outcomes.

Since PCOS is also associated with a lot of social stigma and myths around it, it is important to empower yourself with the right knowledge and work closely with your doctor to understand what treatment works best for you. PCOS in women can show up in varying degrees and you don’t have to have all the main symptoms of PCOS to be diagnosed. However, if you suspect having PCOS, It is important to get diagnosed early and start a proper treatment plan to manage all your symptoms and prevent future complications.

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Who Can Get PCOS?

PCOS can affect anyone - regardless of your ethnicity. It is commonly seen in women in their reproductive age i.e. 15 to 49 years. Also PCOS does not discriminate between shapes and sizes and can affect overweight as well as lean women.

How Common is PCOS?

PCOS is one of the most common endocrine disorders across the world. In fact, in India alone, nearly 100 million women are suffering from PCOS. Despite how common this condition is, many people still don’t fully understand PCOS or seek proper medical treatment.

Which Hormone is Responsible for PCOS?

PCOS is a hormonal disorder, which means the underlying hormonal imbalance is responsible for producing a range of symptoms that can affect your reproductive, metabolic and psychological health.

  • Mainly an imbalance in two hormones in the body - insulin and androgen (male hormone) levels can cause the symptoms and signs of PCOS.
  • PCOS in women can show up in varying degrees and not every woman will perfectly fit the criteria for being diagnosed with PCOS problem.
  • Around 70% of women suffer from insulin resistance, which means that the body is not able to effectively use insulin to keep the blood sugar levels stable. The increased levels of insulin in the blood also increases the production of androgen (male hormones) in the ovaries.
  • The elevated levels of both insulin and androgen can affect ovulation, cause irregular cycles, excess hair growth on face and body, acne and scalp hair loss.

PCOS Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis

Symptoms of PCOS

Some of the common symptoms of PCOS are irregular periods, weight gain, excess facial or body hair, acne scalp hair loss, and mood disorders among others.

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Causes of PCOS

PCOS is a result of a combination of causes including hormonal imbalance (especially in the levels of insulin and androgen levels), genetics and lifestyle factors.

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PCOS Effects

Effect of PCOS can go beyond just reproductive health. PCOS can affect your metabolic and psychological health as well. PCOS also affects your periods, ovulation and hence the ability to conceive.

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PCOS Complications

If PCOS is left untreated, it can lead to a range of long-term health complications that can affect your quality of life such as type 2 diabetes, heart condition, pregnancy complications and cancer.

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Pregnancy and PCOS

PCOS does not make you infertile and you can successfully conceive but it can make it difficult to get pregnant. Also women with PCOS are at an increased risk of developing complications during pregnancy.

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PCOS Diagnosis

To be diagnosed with PCOS, you need to meet two of these three findings – irregular periods, elevated levels of androgen in blood, scans showing polycystic ovaries.

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When to Consult with Doctor

If you are suffering from unexplained symptoms such as weight gain, irregular periods, acne, excess facial or body hair, scalp hair loss or have trouble conceiving, speak to a doctor to understand the root cause of these symptoms.

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PCOS Treatment

You can manage all your PCOS symptoms with a combination of lifestyle modifications and medications. Making lifestyle changes is the first line of treatment and is the most effective approach.

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Our PCOS Specialist

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Dr. Bharti Karwa

Gynaecologist

30+ years of experience

Dr. Mansi Verma

Gynaecologist

9 years of experience

Dr. Smita Sirmukkadam

Gynaecologist

37 years of experience

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - Frequently Asked Questions

Does polycystic ovary syndrome go away?

PCOS in women will not simply ‘go away’ on its own. Although PCOS does not have a cure per se, you can manage all your symptoms with proper medical care that can help you make the required lifestyle modifications. Some women may also require medications in addition to making lifestyle changes to help manage the symptoms. However, you cannot treat PCOS on your own. You need personalised care from doctors and experts who can develop a treatment plan for you based on your symptoms and concerns.

Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome painful?

Polycystic ovary syndrome does not typically cause pain. Despite its name, PCOS does not actually cause ovarian cysts – instead, there are many small follicles (fluid filled sacs with eggs inside) on the surface of the ovary. Women with PCOS may still develop ovarian cysts just like women without PCOS, and these cysts can sometimes cause abdominal pain.

Are periods worse with PCOS?

Many women with PCOS experience irregular periods. Some women may have a lengthy menstrual cycle in which case the endometrium (uterine lining) keeps getting thicker - this can result in heavy or prolonged bleeding. Although PCOS typically does not cause pain during periods, painful periods can be part of normal menstruation or be due to other conditions such as endometriosis or fibroids. PCOS in women may not worsen periods but it can lead to menstrual irregularities that can affect ovulation and increase your risk of getting endometrial cancer.

Will losing excess weight help a woman become pregnant if she is overweight?

If you fall under the overweight or obese category, losing even 5% to 10% of bodyweight can help improve many symptoms of PCOS. Before you plan on getting pregnant, you need to first manage your PCOS with a combination of lifestyle modifications and medications to improve your chances of getting pregnant and to prevent complications during pregnancy. Given the baseline weight struggles, women with PCOS should particularly pay attention to weight management after their delivery.

Is it possible for a woman with PCOS to become pregnant through IVF or ICSI?

For many women with PCOS, a combination of lifestyle modification and medications can help with conceiving naturally. However, in some women who haven’t found luck in conceiving via natural methods, ovulation induction with oral medications such as letrozole can be helpful. If this is still unsuccessful, assisted reproductive technology is another option. This includes procedures such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Often these procedures can be demanding and expensive, and are the last option after having tried other less intensive fertility treatment.

How to Prepare for your PCOS appointment?

PCOS can be a complex condition to diagnose and you cannot self-diagnose PCOS on the basis of symptoms. This is because there are many other conditions that have overlapping symptoms so it is important to have ruled out those conditions. It is important to discuss all your symptoms and concerns with your doctor and be open about any unexplained changes that have been worrying you. This can help your doctor to understand the root cause and also recommend appropriate tests for diagnosis.

What to Ask Your Doctor About PCOS?

If you suspect having PCOS, you’ll have a number of questions on mind. That is why working closely with your doctor and getting all your answers resolved is important for making informed decisions about your health. Although this is not a comprehensive list, these are some of the questions you can ask your doctor about PCOS:

  1. What tests are required for PCOS diagnosis
  2. What is the root cause of my PCOS?
  3. What lifestyle modifications should I make to manage my symptoms?
  4. Do I need to take birth control pills?
  5. Will PCOS affect my chances of conceiving?
  6. I have pre-existing medical conditions. How can I manage them both?

What are the expectations from your PCOS doctor?

Your doctor will understand your medical history and your PCOS symptoms. Based on your symptoms your doctor will recommend certain tests that can help with diagnosis. Remember that PCOS simply cannot be treated by eating less and moving more or by just taking a birth control pill. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your symptoms with your doctor or feel like they are brushing off your symptoms and not providing with the right treatment, take a second opinion from another doctor.