PCOS(Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)

  • August 28, 2020
PCOS Causes and Treatment

16 year-old Rashi was a disturbed and depressed adolescent. After much coaxing, her worried mother managed to get her to talk about what was ailing her. Rashi had recently begun putting on weight, apparently for no reason, and she had also developed acne and an unusual amount of hair growth on her face, arms and legs. Her classmates in school had not been kind about this change and she had unfortunately become the butt of much ridicule. Her mother tried to console her by telling her that such problems were not uncommon at her age as her body was going through a lot of hormonal changes, but she decided to consult a gynaecologist any way. After examining Rashi, the doctor prescribed some blood tests and an ultrasound. Her reports showed that she had high androgen levels and was suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The doctor said the maladies Rashi was suffering from were all symptoms of the condition.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among the women of childbearing age. Women suffering from PCOS often have prolonged or infrequent menstrual periods, high androgen/male hormone levels and fail to ovulate regularly. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. Early diagnosis and treatment along with maintenance of proper weight may reduce the risk of long-term complications such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Symptoms

Signs of PCOS often develop around the time of the first menstrual period, while at other instances it may develop due to weight gain. Common signs of PCOS are:

  • Irregular periods – Irregular periods or prolonged menstrual cycles are the most common sign of PCOS
  • Excessive androgen levels – Elevated levels of male androgen hormone in a female may result in physical signs, such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), and sometimes severe acne and male-pattern baldness.
  • Polycystic ovaries – One may have enlarged ovaries and contain follicles that surround the eggs. This leads to failed ovarian function

Other symptoms include:

  • Darkened skin at the neck or in the armpits
  • Mood swings
  • Pelvic pain
  • Weight gain

PCOS signs and symptoms are more severe if you are obese.

Causes

Some common causes of PCOS include:

  • Excess insulin – Insulin hormone produced in the pancreas allows cells to use sugar, your body’s primary energy supply. Once your cells become insulin resistant, your blood sugar levels can rise and your body might produce more insulin leading to increase in androgen production, causing difficulty with ovulation.
  • Low inflammation – Women with PCOS have a type of low-grade inflammation that stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens, which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems.
  • Heredity – Research suggests that PCOS may sometimes also be genetic
  • High androgen level – The ovaries produce abnormally high levels of androgen, resulting in excessive hair growth and acne.

Complications

Complications of PCOS can include:

  • Infertility
  • Gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Miscarriage or premature birth
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis – a liver inflammation caused by fat accumulation in the liver
  • It can lead to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Depression, anxiety and eating disorders
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Cancer of the uterine lining/endometrial cancer

Diagnosis

The doctor is likely to start with a discussion of your medical history, including your menstrual periods and weight changes. A physical exam includes checking for signs of excess hair growth, insulin resistance and acne.

Doctor may then recommend:

  • A pelvic exam – The doctor looks and manually inspects the reproductive organs for masses, growths or other abnormalities
  • Blood tests – Blood tests to measure hormone levels may be recommended and also to measure glucose tolerance and fasting cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • An ultrasound – An ultrasound helps to check the appearance of the ovaries and the thickness of the uterus lining. A wand like device is placed in your vagina which emits sound waves that are translated into images on a computer screen.

Treatment

PCOS treatment might involve lifestyle changes and medication.

Lifestyle changes

The doctor may recommend weight loss through balanced diet combined with moderate exercise activities. Losing weight may also increase the effectiveness of the medications that the doctor recommends for PCOS.

When to see a doctor

If you are experiencing irregular periods, hirsutism, acne, male-pattern baldness or finding it difficult to conceive, a visit to the doctor is recommended.

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