Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common lifestyle and hormonal disorder faced by women of childbearing age that affects 1 out of 5 women in India.
While PCOS has a variety of symptoms, such as acne, facial hair, hirsutism, and irregular periods, it all boils down to the underlying hormonal imbalance in the body that causes it all.
Hormones are chemicals that are naturally produced by the body to coordinate different functions. They carry messages or signals through the body to organs, muscles, skin, and other tissues. These signals tell the body what to do and what not to do and are thus vital to your health.
Hormonal imbalance can be hard to identify and can often go undiagnosed for years. However, prolonged ignorance about your symptoms can lead to chronic health issues like infertility, diabetes, and even cancer.Start PCOS Treatment
Your hormones are chemical substances that carry messages through the bloodstream from one part to another. Hormones influence all major body processes, such as digestion, growth, reproduction, temperature, and sexual function. When there is an imbalance in the levels of certain hormones, it can affect the functioning of a particular body process.
The PCOS hormonal imbalance also causes decreased levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which is a protein in the blood that binds to the testosterone in the body to reduce its effect, thus resulting in an increased amount of testosterone.
While the exact reason behind the hormonal changes is not known, studies suggest that the problem might start in the ovaries, in the glands that produce these hormones, and in some cases, in the part of the brain that controls the production of the hormones.
However, researchers strongly suggest that hormonal imbalance may be a byproduct of the body’s poor responsiveness to insulin — commonly known as insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia.
Signs of hormonal imbalance can show up differently in different women. Since many of these signs can seem subtle and nonspecific, a hormonal imbalance can go undiagnosed for years.
The following are some of the common signs and symptoms of underlying hormonal imbalances in the body:
Based on the symptoms mentioned above, your doctor might run further tests to reach a solid conclusion regarding your symptoms and your conditions.
As much as many women dread having periods each month, having regular periods is a sign of good overall health. And although missing your periods is not a life-threatening condition, it does reflect that your hormones are not balanced and not functioning properly. Irregular periods can over time increase the risk of developing complications such as difficulty in conceiving and even endometrial cancer.
In PCOS, the underlying hormonal imbalance, especially in the levels of insulin and androgen, can affect the monthly cycle of periods and ovulation. Periods can become irregular or stop altogether. As the period cycle lengthens, ovulation is also affected and can either become irregular or not happen at all (which is known as anovulation). Irregular or no ovulation is the main cause of infertility in women with PCOS.
Some women may experience light or very heavy bleeding during their cycle. However, it is important to define what an irregular period is because women often overlook their symptoms thinking it to be something normal.
Irregular periods are usually defined as:
Since a number of conditions can cause irregular periods, such as poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, thyroid conditions, or certain medications, it is important to understand the root cause. Treating the hormonal imbalance can help restore normal functioning of the ovaries and of the menstrual cycle.
Genetics play a huge role in hormonal balance and imbalance in the body. However, women with PCOS are more sensitive to their hormones and can be greatly affected by simple factors that might not affect women without PCOS in the same way.
Your diet has a major role to play in your hormones and directly affects the hormonal balance of your body, especially in women with PCOS. An unhealthy, imbalanced diet can cause havoc in the body, which is why women with PCOS are first advised to work on their diet and opt for a structured PCOS diet plan.
A sedentary lifestyle is another major contributor to imbalanced hormones in the body. An inactive lifestyle creates room for insulin resistance, which can cause the body to gain excessive weight and produce an excess amount of male hormones. This can give rise to more PCOS symptoms, such as excessive weight gain, facial hair, hirsutism, and hair loss. In the long run, this can lead to infertility, diabetes, and even cancer. Thus, PCOS patients are advised to work out regularly and adapt to healthier lifestyle choices.
Stress also plays a significant role in causing hormonal imbalances in the body.
Hormonal imbalance puts women at great risk of menstrual irregularities, which can also lead to infertility and endometrial cancer in the long run.
Furthermore, it can also cause visible changes in the body such as hair loss, hirsutism, facial hair, excessive weight gain, trouble sleeping, mood swings, constant fatigue, and obesity.
Since PCOS is a lifestyle and hormonal disorder, women with PCOS are at a greater risk of infertility, diabetes, and cancer if they do not address their symptoms in time.
Approximately 70% of women with PCOS also experience insulin resistance, which further encourages hormonal imbalances in the body.
Hormonal imbalances can be corrected once you understand the root cause of your symptoms. One of the most effective approaches is making holistic lifestyle changes. Although medications can also help, they cannot correct the imbalance on their own.
Lifestyle changes such as the following are sustainable solutions for seeing lasting results.
There is no single test that can determine whether there is a hormonal imbalance in the body. Your healthcare provider will first examine your symptoms to decide the correct test and diagnosis for you.
You might be asked the following questions:
Based on your symptoms, your doctor may suggest a blood test, since most hormonal imbalances can be detected in the blood itself. Some of the common tests that are performed are insulin, testosterone, thyroid, prolactin, and reproductive hormone tests.
Your doctor might also suggest an ultrasound or a pelvic test to check for any cysts (follicles) in your ovaries.
Depending on the factors causing the hormonal imbalances in your body, you may be prescribed one or more of the following treatments.
If your symptoms include hot flashes and other uncomfortable menopausal symptoms, your doctor may recommend a mild dose of oestrogen. Be sure to discuss the risks of hormone replacement therapy with your doctor.
If you experience vaginal dryness and/or pain during sex, you can consider applying an oestrogen cream, ring, or tablet. This is a local therapy that helps eradicate many risks surrounding systemic oestrogen.
When taken under medical supervision, hormonal birth control can help regulate periods and, in some cases, help reduce acne and facial hair.
Androgens are male hormones that cause symptoms in females such as facial hair, acne, and hair loss. Your doctor may prescribe androgen medications that block the effects of androgens to address these concerns.
In women with low testosterone levels, testosterone supplements can regulate their hormones to normal levels and eliminate health issues associated with low testosterone levels. Testosterone therapy can be given in the form of tablets, injections, gel, or a patch.
If you have hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid glands fail to produce enough hormones, levothyroxine (a synthetic thyroid hormone) can help restore normal hormone levels.
Metformin is a commonly prescribed drug for diabetes but is also commonly prescribed to women with PCOS who are suffering from insulin resistance. Metformin improves insulin sensitivity which can in turn help reduce androgen levels and improve the many symptoms of PCOS.
This prescription cream is designed for facial hair. When it is applied topically to the skin, it can help slow the growth of new hair, although it does not remove existing facial hair.
There are no proven ayurvedic or natural remedies to help treat hormonal imbalances. However, some women may use natural remedies to complement their treatment regimen to improve their overall health.
Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids that are very beneficial for your overall health and also provide the building blocks for your hormones. It helps reduce inflammation in the body caused by hormonal imbalances and promotes weight loss by boosting metabolism.
These are rich in monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats along with saturated fatty acids. Avocados have anti-inflammatory properties that aid in treating hormonal imbalances in the body.
This is one of the most effective adaptogenic herbs and helps deal with hormonal imbalance. It also helps relieve stress and anxiety, which are major contributors to hormonal imbalances. Furthermore, this herb is known to stimulate thyroid hormone activity and eliminate thyroid imbalance.
Hormonal imbalance is a condition that needs medical care. If left untreated, it can lead to a number of health complications in the future. If you are experiencing any unexplained symptoms in your body, such as irregular periods, facial hair, hair loss, and excessive fatigue, it’s best to speak to a PCOS professional to understand your treatment options.
Understanding your symptoms and their root cause is important, especially when it comes to chronic conditions like PCOS.
Our online assessment will help you understand your individual symptoms and find the perfect treatment plan to bid farewell to the havoc hormonal imbalances can cause in the body. Start now!
It's normal for women to have some discharge - learn about what different types of discharge can mean here....February 28 . 3 min read
Emergency contraception may be your only resort to avoid unwanted pregnancy after unprotected sex. Read on to know all about the morning-after pill to be better prepared....February 16 . 5 min read