PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – Symptoms, Causes

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One of the most common reasons for infertility amongst women is PCOS, that is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It is a medical condition that usually needs a professional assistance and this article aims to inform its readers about the condition.

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) also known as Hyper Androgenic Anovulation or Leventhal syndrome is a medical condition that leads to formation of multiple cysts in the ovary/ovaries. There is also an increase in the level of hormones of woman who has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Elevation in the levels of ‘male hormones’ in a woman is witnessed in PCOS. This then leads to a change in the menstrual cycle of woman who has this syndrome.

What is an Ovarian Cyst?

A sac (tissue) filled with fluid is a cyst. However, ‘cysts’ seen in PCOS are immature follicles. These ‘cysts’ then keep developing leading to the formation of multiple or ‘poly cysts’

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - PCOS

What are the symptoms associated with PCOS?

There are wide ranges of symptoms associated with PCOS. Someone with PCOS may suffer from a myriad of the following symptoms which include:

  1. Irregular menstrual cycle
  2. Heavy flow during periods
  3. Acne/pimples seen on face, forehead and back
  4. Severe pain in the pelvic region
  5. Facial hair (hirsutism)
  6. Dark, velvety patches seen on skin and underarm region
  7. Thinning of hair
  8. Excess hair fall
  9. Depression
  10. Weight Gain

These symptoms may be associated with the following conditions:

  1. Diabetes Mellitus/ Type 2 Diabetes
  2. Obesity
  3. Sleep Apnea (Obstruction of airway pathway)
  4. Endometrial Cancer

What Causes PCOS?

The origin of PCOS is unknown however onset of this syndrome is associated with either genetic factors, obesity or metabolic factors.

How Does PCOS Manifest in Our Body?

When anterior pituitary gland (a gland that is located in our brain that controls several other hormonal glands in our body) produces Luteinizing hormone or if there are high levels of Insulin in the blood then secretion of male hormone called as testosterone is noticed. This then prevents ovulation of eggs that are present in ovary. This leads to formation of cysts.

Diagnostic Tests For PCOS:

To diagnose this condition, a medical practitioner usually looks into the following

  • Hormonal secretions
  • Ovulation cycle
  • Presence of Follicles (cysts) in ovary

What Are the Hormones Tested To Diagnose PCOS?

A medical practitioner checks the levels of the following hormones:

  1. Luteinizing hormone (LH)
  2. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  3. Testosterone
  4. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS)
  5. Prolactin
  6. Androstenedione
  7. Progesterone

A doctor may at times prescribe some of the following tests to detect PCOS. These include Ultrasound to detect cysts in ovary. Other tests include Laparoscopy, blood serum level examination, lipid tests and Blood glucose (sugar) test.

Management of PCOS:

As PCOS is a syndrome that consists of various symptoms, it needs a detailed long-term management plans. Treatment of this syndrome requires a multi-prong approach which may include but may not be restricted only to reducing Insulin tolerance, treating infertility, hirsutism (development of facial hair), acne and irregular menstrual cycle.

Dietary Changes:  Dietary change is an essential component of weight management. A low carbohydrate, whole grain diet is advised. A person is also encouraged to consume fruits for micronutrients such as vitamins

Weight Reduction: PCOS is most commonly seen in obese women, hence reducing weight is essential in the management of this syndrome. A healthy and active lifestyle is advised. It is advisable to maintain Body Mass Index of the normal range of 18.5 -24.9. A person with PCOS can take part in yoga, jogging, walks, sports to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Vitamin D Regulation: Vitamin D plays an essential role in metabolism. Since PCOS is associated with people with metabolic disorders, hence Vitamin D supplement are recommended to those who suffer from PCOS.

Medications: Oral contraceptives could be prescribed by a medical professional. These medications help in reduction of testosterone levels plus they also help to regularize the irregular menstrual cycles.

Anti-androgens can be prescribed to reduce the level of male hormones to control acne and hirsutism (development of facial hair). Medications also include insulin regulators for those who are tolerant to insulin.

Treatment of Hirsutism: Hirsutism refers to presence hair and this condition can be treated under the guidance of skin care specialist. However, in some people, psychological treatment is also needed as facial hair can lead to loss of confidence or depression.

Treatment of acne: Acne is caused by hormonal imbalances; hence treatment of hormonal imbalance leads to cure of acne. Oral contraceptives or medication prescribed by medical professional should be used. Use of alternative medicines and Ayurveda based products are usually advised by the physicians. Exercises such as swimming, cycling, aerobics, yoga, jogging, walking, skipping, cardio training etc. can help in maintaining the normal hormonal levels and this can also in turn reduce acne.

Treatment of irregular menstrual cycle: Irregular menstrual cycle is a concern for those who seek to bear children. It is advised to seek the assistance of obstetrician /gynecologist. This condition can be cured by medication or through invasive procedures.

Treatment of ovarian cysts: In some case, it is best advised to surgically remove these cysts or undergo surgery for this condition. This can only prescribed by a competent medical professional

Depression: Unable to bear a child can be frustrating for a couple. Hence, it is advisable for the couple to remain positive through-out the course of treatment. Seek professional medical help if you or your partner is suffering from depression.

This blog is an attempt to understand PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) its causes, symptoms associated, diagnosis and management. This article is only educational in nature and in case you or any of your loved ones are suffering from this condition kindly do not resort to self-medication, it is advisable to get in touch with a Gynecologist/Medical specialist at the earliest.

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