Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Complications, and Treatment

What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), also called polycystic ovarian disease, is a health problem that can affect a woman in so many ways. It can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and her ability to conceive. PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility. It can affect the heart, blood vessels, hormones, and even appearance.

Women with PCOS have:

  • Small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in their ovaries
  • High levels of male hormones (androgens), though females also make them.
  • Missed or irregular monthly flow.

Causes of PCOS 

The major cause of PCOS is yet unknown, however, most experts suspect several factors, including genetics, could be responsible. Women with PCOS are more likely to have a mother or sister with PCOS.

Hormonal imbalance is the major underlying problem with PCOS because the ovaries produce more androgens (male hormones that is also produced by females), than normal. During ovulation, high levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs.

High levels of androgen can lead to weight gain, acne, excess hair growth, and irregular ovulation.

Symptoms of PCOS 

The symptoms of PCOS can differ from woman to woman. Some of the polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms include:

  • Infertility due to lack of ovulation
  • Infrequent, absent, and/or irregular menstrual periods
  • Cysts on ovaries
  • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
  • Pelvic pain
  • Increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes
  • Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
  • Cysts on the ovaries
  • Weight gain or obesity, usually with extra weight around the waist
  • Skin tags — excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
  • Patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs that are thick and dark brown or black
  • Sleep apnea — when breathing stops for short periods of time while asleep
  • Anxiety or depression

How do I know if I have PCOS? 

There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. However, to properly diagnose PCOS, your doctor will:

  • Ask about your medical history, like issues that has to do with your menstrual periods, weight changes, and other symptoms.
  • Perform physical exam to measure your blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and waist size. Your doctor will check the areas of increased hair growth. You should try to allow the natural hair to grow for a few days prior to the visit.
  • Pelvic exam. Your doctor might want to check to see if your ovaries are distended by the increased number of small cysts.
  • Blood tests to check the androgen hormone and glucose levels in your blood.
  • Ultrasound (sonogram): This procedure involves your doctor using a sound waves to take pictures of the pelvic area. It might be used to examine your ovaries for cysts and check the endometrium (lining of the womb). This lining may become thicker if your periods are not irregular.

Treatment of PCOS

There is no cure for PCOS, it needs to be managed to prevent problems. Treatment goals are based on your symptoms, whether or not you want to become pregnant, and lowering your chances of getting heart disease and diabetes. Many women will need a combination of treatments to meet these goals. Some treatments for PCOS include making proper lifestyle changes that borders on your eating and exercising habits to keep your weight in check.

  • Consuming more whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats
  • Birth control pills. For women who don’t want to get pregnant, birth control pills can:
  • Reduce levels of male hormone
  • Control menstrual cycles
  • Help to clear acne

Taking fertility drugs: The reason for issues of fertility in women with PCOS is lack of ovulation. However, there are some drugs that can trigger ovulation and help women with PCOS achieve pregnancy.

In vitro fertilization (IVF): IVF offers the best chance of achieving pregnancy in any given cycle. It also gives doctors better control over the chance of multiple births. However, IVF is very expensive.

Surgery: A surgery that can increase the chance of ovulation (Ovarian drilling), can be performed. It may be used when a woman does not respond to fertility medications. This surgery can lower male hormone levels and help with ovulation. However, these effects may only last a few months.

Also, medications for increased hair growth called anti-androgens may reduce hair growth and clear acne. Anti-androgens are sometimes combined with birth control pills. These medications should not be taken if you are trying to get pregnant.

Before taking any Medicines tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Do not breastfeed while taking this medicine.

Other options include:

  • Cream to reduce facial hair
  • Laser hair removal or electrolysis to remove hair
  • Hormonal treatment to prevent new hair from growing

Does PCOS change at menopause?

PCOS may or may not affects many systems in the body. Symptoms may persist even though ovarian function and hormone levels change as a woman approaches menopause. As a woman advances in age, the risks of complications from PCOS, such as diabetes, stroke, and heart attack, increases.

How does PCOS affect a woman while pregnant?

Women with PCOS can be affected by the disease in several ways. Pregnant women with PCOS may have higher rates of:

  • Premature delivery
  • Miscarriage
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure

Does PCOS expose women to other health problems?

Women with PCOS have higher risks of developing severe health conditions. According to recent studies:

  • Women with PCOS have greater chances of developing high blood pressure or hypertension.
  • Females that have PCOS issues can have diabetes or pre-diabetes early in life.
  • PCOS women can develop sleep apnea.
  • Women with PCOS may also develop anxiety and depression.

Lack of ovulation and irregular menstrual periods can make a women to produce the hormone estrogen, however not the hormone progesterone. Progesterone causes the lining of the womb to shed as menstrual period monthly. The endometrium gets thick without progesterone, which can lead to heavy or irregular menstrual flow.

How to Prevent PCOS Complications

If you have PCOS, get your symptoms under control at an earlier age to help reduce your chances of having complications like diabetes and heart disease. Consult your doctor about your symptoms instead of focusing on your inability to conceive.

Observe the following tips to manage your PCOS.

  • Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily
  • Eat small meals, like 5-6 times a day.
  • Give preference to home cooked meals.
  • Try to consume 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Eat a high fibre diet wholegrains/fruits/vegetables
  • Add brightly colored and white vegetables to your diet.
  • Avoid foods that are fried, processed, or packaged. Also avoid foods with high glycemic index.
  • Work out at least 5 times every week for at least 30 minutes.

Source: practo.com

Disclaimer: The content provided on healthdiary365.com is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.

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