What Is PCOS?

PCOS or Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a chronic condition that affects one in every five women in India. But what is PCOS? Read on to find more!

Posted on November 19, 2021 ·

BY Team Veera

Medically Reviewed

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If you’ve ever been a part of a conversation surrounding polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you must’ve realised it is pretty common. You might’ve even heard your friend or a cousin make a passing statement about irregular periods, acne or facial hair. Has that ever made you wonder what PCOS really is? What causes it? And above all, if there is a cure for PCOS? If yes, then you’re not alone.

In India itself, one in every five women are diagnosed with PCOS. Often misdiagnosed and poorly understood by research, PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women throughout their reproductive lives.

What does PCOS mean?

PCOS is a syndrome, which means it presents itself as a complex set of symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance, affecting reproductive and metabolic health.

However, if you’re familiar with PCOS, you might’ve also come across people who interchangeably call it PCOD. PCOS was previously called polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD). The truth is, PCOD is nothing but an outdated term that is no longer used by medical professionals — as PCOS is not a ‘disease’ but rather a syndrome.

How Is It Diagnosed?

PCOS cannot be diagnosed simply on the basis of symptoms. That’s because many of the symptoms of PCOS are also seen in other conditions and can seem non-specific. So it is important to understand the root cause of your symptoms.

And performing blood tests and scans are an important part of the diagnosis and helps your doctor understand and assess your hormonal profile.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor can recommend which tests to perform but usually these are the tests that form a part of the PCOS diagnosis:

  1. Ultrasound (USG) scan
  2. Testosterone test
  3. Prolactin test
  4. Thyroid test
  5. Insulin test
  6. Reproductive hormones like LH, FSH, estrogen

How does PCOS affect your body?

Although the exact cause of PCOS is still unknown – genetics, excess insulin and lifestyle factors can increase the risk of developing PCOS.

According to the Rotterdam criteria, diagnosis of PCOS requires at least two of these three findings:

1. Hyperandrogenism

Androgens are male hormones that are also naturally produced by females in small quantities. In PCOS however, higher than normal levels of androgens may be present (hyperandrogenism), which can interfere with the normal functioning of ovulation (egg release) and lead to hirsutism (excess facial and body hair), acne and hair loss on the scalp.

2. Oligomenorrhea

Infrequent or irregular menstrual periods – cycles of more than 35 days or less than 21 days or having fewer than 9 menstruations in a year.

3. Polycystic ovaries

Polycystic ovaries are defined as ovaries that contain 20 or more follicles (the small sacs that an egg grows in) in each ovary. These follicles can measure anywhere between 2 to 9mm in diameter.

However, the symptoms of PCOS do not present themselves in the same way for every woman. For example, some women may not get periods for months together, while others may have multiple cycles in a single month. Although research is still not conclusive, the cause of PCOS is a combination of hormonal imbalance, lifestyle factors and genetics.

There is no complete cure for PCOS but many of the symptoms can be managed with lifestyle modifications and medications — and making lifestyle changes is often the first line of treatment. It is important to remember that each woman will have a different set of symptoms so the treatment pathways will vary. If you have any of the above symptoms, it is advised to get a formal diagnosis done by a medical professional.

Learn More with Veera Health

PCOS symptoms can manifest at varying degrees in among women and can go undiagnosed for years. If you are suffering from unexplained symptoms or suspect having PCOS, speak to our experts at Veera Health. We offer comprehensive test packages that contain all the essential biomarkers required for PCOS diagnosis. Our team of doctors and experts work closely with you to understand your lifestyle, triggers and medical history to personalise a plan that will take of your symptoms and concerns. Book a free appointment with our experts today!

Verified by Dr. Iris Lee

Fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Lee is a fellow in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed medical school and residency training at the University of Pennsylvania as well. Her work focuses primarily on PCOS, particularly the metabolic and mental health implications. Outside of work, she enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with her husband and two puppies.

At Veera, we are dedicated towards reversing PCOS for life with our science-backed program that is accessible and affordable to all.

Get started to see the difference for yourself.

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