Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – Symptoms and causes
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In a woman’s childbearing age, her reproductive health is very important. Many factors contribute to her reproductive wellbeing in today’s world. Poor diet, a sedentary life cycle, and even bad mental health can deteriorate women’s sexual and reproductive health. There are many ailments know to affect a woman’s fertility. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, aka PCOS, is one of the most common diseases a woman might suffer in her teens as well as later age. PCOS is a multifactor disease with unpredictable life changes and impacts on a woman’s healthy lifestyle. It is more like a lifestyle disorder than a proper medical disease.
According to a recent finding, almost 20 to 50% of women suffer from PCOS in their life between the ages of 20-30. That means 1 out of every three women has the chance to develop PCOD in her life. Due to its prevailing conditions, it is important to understand it for women completely before it gets too late. For a general perspective today, we shall throw some light on the topic of PCOS today. For a better understanding, hold onto this article till the end.
PCOS: What is it?
As its name suggests, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a disorder of ovaries that is the most important part of the woman’s reproductive system. The disease is categorized by the production of multiple undeveloped follicles in the ovaries of women. Due to the undeveloped and immature harmless follicle production, ovulation (release of the egg) of the woman is hindered, causing multiple hormonal issues and troubles of fertility.
PCOS is a common hormonal disorder of women which leads to the imbalance of hormones in the body. However, the proper cause of the disorder is unknown, but certain factors are known to contribute to the onset of the ailment. Diagnosis at the right time is important to control the side effects and long-term harms of the disease. Let’s know to check how we can identify the PCOS.
Some common features are known to be seen in the patients. The presence of two or more of them can help the doctor identify the disease better. Some are listed below;
A. Disturbed menstrual cycle:
One of the first and most common features of PCOS is the irregular menstrual cycle. This will probably be the first thing your doctor will look for in your PCOS diagnosis phase. As a woman’s ovulation is disturbed in PCOS, a woman with this disease will suffer prolonged or shorter than usual periods. Your menstrual cycle will be completely irregular (prolonged or skipped periods).
B. Hormonal Imbalance:
Then after knowing the irregular menstrual cycle, your doctor will check to know if you also have a hormonal imbalance in your body. If yes, then what are the levels. For that, the true male hormone levels, i.e., androgen, will be checked in your body. Blood tests are required in this phase.
C. Cysts of Ovary:
In the third stage of diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe you an abdominal ultrasound scan of your pelvic region to check if your ovaries are producing undeveloped follicle sacs. These ovarian cysts are usually harmless and filled with fluid, i.e., sacs. These sacs will lead to the production of immature oocytes and disturbing normal ovulation. In some cases, your ultrasound reports will show no cysts, but you will be having PCOS other features like hormonal imbalance.
If any of the two features are present, then you may have PCOS onset in your body.
What causes PCOS?
As we already know, PCOS is a multifactor disorder, so there can be various factors, reasons, and causes. Some of the major causes of PCOS are;
a. Insulin resistance:
Insulin is a pancreatic hormone that serves in the production of sugar in the body by metabolizing carbs, proteins, and fats from the diet. In PCOS, the insulin functionality is seen to be partially lost in the body, and a condition called insulin resistance is caused. In PCOS, a high sugar level is detected.
As a result of insulin resistance in the body, more male hormones are produced in females. Obesity is also an outcome of defective insulin of pancreatic islets. Both insulin resistance and obesity become the cause of diabetes mellitus type II in patients with PCOS.
b. Genetic causes:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is often seen to run genes. In the genetic linkage of PCOS, researchers see that several genes are defective in androgen biosynthesis. Due to the defective genes, it is also referred to as a genetic complex syndrome.
Being overweight is also a factor that contributes to the onset of PCOS. Insulin resistance and obesity are interlinked in causing PCOS. To avoid PCOS, you should always be mindful of your BMI.
In women with PCOS, inflammation is associated with the production of androgen (male hormones in the body). Due to glucose intolerance caused in the body, there is the onset of inflammatory PCOS in females.
In most cases consuming too much sugary, oily foods can also lead to PCOS. Almost more than half of people with PCOS are seen to be addicted to processed meats, sugary foods, oily products, and refined carbohydrates.
There can be other causes of PCOS as well, but the above-discussed factors are the most important reasons for the onset of PCOS in females.
We can recognize the PCOS by following symptoms:
- Irregular menstrual cycle (prolonged or no periods)
- Excessive hair growth, i.e., hirsutism (Men like hair growth on face, chest, back)
- Unusual weight gain
- Swelling (obvious around the pelvic region) or bloating
- Hair loss or thinning of hair from head (pattern hair loss)
- Acne (facial and body)
- Oily skin
- High cholesterol levels (Lipid levels in PCOS)
- Compromised fertility
- Skin darkening
- Heavy bleeding in menses
- Mood swings
What can be the complications?
There can be a lot of complications and long-term effects of PCOS in women. Some complications can be handled by making some lifestyle changes, and alerts and medications can treat some.
One of the biggest impacts or complications of PCOS is infertility that can be permanent or temporary. However, with various medications and diet changes, fertility issues can be restored. The natural conceiving process entirely depends on ovulation, and as we know that ovulation is irregular in PCOS patients. So women with PCOS or a history of PCOS suffer difficulty in getting pregnant. Today PCOS is a leading cause of infertility in women.
Women with PCOS tend to experience depression and anxiety more likely than healthy individuals. PCOS women mostly get depressed about their weight gain, changing physical appearance, acne, and facial hair. Besides all that, hormonal changes lead to sudden mood swings and anxiety attacks.
Due to the condition of anovulation (no ovulation) in PCOS patients the risk of endometrium cancer increases. The endometrium is the inner lining of the uterus that sheds during the menstrual cycle after ovulation. But in PCOS, endometrium stays intact for a longer period and becomes a cause of cancer due to skipped periods.
Recent findings show that PCOS is a leading cause of endometrium and breast cancer.
PCOS can aggravate and lead to a condition known as metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of multiple disorders in humans, increasing the risk for cardiovascular disorders and atherosclerosis. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by:
- Diabetes mellitus
- High lipid levels
These conditions lead to CVDs and other heart disorders like stroke.
The process of diagnosis of PCOS involves the following stages;
A. Check for the major symptoms
- Irregular periods
- Facial hair (chin and sideburns)
- Weight gain
B. Blood tests
- Identify high levels of male hormones i.e.,Treatment & testosterone
- Identify levels of female hormones
- Test sugar and lipid levels
C. Ultrasound scans
- A pelvic ultrasound exam to see the normal shape of ovaries and size
- Check the presence of immature follicles in the ovary
- Swelling of ovaries
There is no specific cure for PCOS because it is more a kind of a lifestyle disease. There are certain tips to minimize the symptoms listed as below;
- Control your weight
- Avoid sugary, oily, and fatty diet
- Exercise and work out
- Diet plans
- Medications for irregular periods
- Hair growth minimizing treatments
- Fertility restoring medicines
- Control cholesterol and lipid levels
- Avoid contraceptives
- Lead a healthy, happy, and stress-free life.
- Avoid depression
- Active lifestyle
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