Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects women between the ages of 15 and 44. Women between this age group have between 2.2% to 26.7% chances of developing PCOS.1
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects a woman’s ovaries and impacts her cycle of ovulation. It is a syndrome which means it can result in the development of a number of other symptoms or conditions. The three main health conditions that can develop out of it are cysts in the ovaries, irregular hormone levels, and irregular or skipped menstrual cycles.
These conditions caused by PCOS get triggered due to various reasons most of which are interlinked and happen subsequently.
Cysts In Ovaries
The ovaries contain fluid-filled sacs called follicles that hold immature eggs. Normally, around five follicles start maturing during a menstrual cycle and at least a single mature egg is released at ovulation.
In PCOS, twice the usual number of follicles start to ripen, but the eggs present in them never mature for ovulation to occur. This leads to cysts in ovaries.
In the absence of ovulation, an imbalance occurs in levels of estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Also, your follicles start producing more amount of male sex hormone called androgens and a lesser amount of female hormone estrogen.
The presence of male hormone interferes with the normal menstrual cycle. It stops the ovulation or causes irregular or no periods and make it difficult for a woman to conceive.
What Causes PCOS?
The reason behind PCOS has known been clearly known. Yet, we know that an imbalance of hormones can interfere with the process of producing eggs in the ovaries. Here are the factors that bridge the gap between the causes and the condition.
1. Genes have a bigger role to play in PCOS. Women are likely to develop the condition if PCOS runs in their family.2
2. Another contributing factor is insulin resistance. It has been found that 70% of women with PCOS develop insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates how the body uses sugar from the foods for getting energy. When the body cells can’t utilize insulin properly, there is an increase in the production of the hormone to meet the insulin requirement.
The extra insulin in the body contributes to the production of male hormones, increasing the risk of PCOS. Obesity has been found to cause insulin resistance.
3. Inflammation in the body has also been linked to higher levels of male hormones like androgen. Women who are overweight develop inflammation, which can lead to PCOS.
What Are The Symptoms Of PCOS?
Apart from irregular menstrual cycles, below are the symptoms associated with PCOS.
Symptoms Due To Male Hormones
Higher levels of the male hormone can result in unwanted hair growth on the face, chest, belly and the back and thin of the hair on the scalp.3. Acne breakout on the face is another symptom caused due to a surge in male hormones which tend to make the skin oily.
Some women experience heavy bleeding during menstrual cycles because the uterine lining keeps building up for a longer time when the cycles become irregular.
Another observed symptom of PCOS is that women with the condition are, in most cases overweight or obese.
Hormonal imbalance can lead to mood shifts and women can develop symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Women who have PCOS often complain about insomnia or poor sleep. PCOS has also been linked with sleep apnea—in sleep apnea, the person stops breathing for a short period of time while sleeping.
Diagnosis And Treatment Of PCOS
Usually, the symptoms are difficult to associate with PCOS. The very obvious ones include irregularity in your period cycle. Blood tests can determine your hormones levels and can be used to diagnose PCOS. Vaginal ultrasounds are used to check the enlarged ovaries with cysts.
PCOS cannot be treated, however, dealing with the symptoms can help decrease the severity of the condition. You will be prescribed medication for a regular menstrual flow. Acne treatment and medicine for facial hair may also be recommended by doctors.
Your doctor will ask you to maintain a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) by eating healthy and maintaining the right weight. Exercising can help you lose weight—include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and skip foods which are high in unsaturated fats like meat, fried foods, and cheese.
Smoking can shoot up the androgen levels in women, consider quitting it.4
Does PCOS Affect Fertility?
PCOS can lower your chances of conception because of delayed or no ovulation and increase in the levels of male hormone. If you are trying for a baby, let your doctor know so that they can prescribe you the medication that is safe for your baby when you are pregnant. Treatments include drugs that stimulate ovulation and surgery called laparoscopic ovarian drilling that can help you conceive.
Losing little weight can lower your insulin levels and inflammation, making a difference in the symptoms. You are likely to see the positive results if you maintain a healthy BMI before going for drugs and fertility treatments.
|↑1||March, Wendy A., Vivienne M. Moore, Kristyn J. Willson, David IW Phillips, Robert J. Norman, and Michael J. Davies. “The prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome in a community sample assessed under contrasting diagnostic criteria.” Human reproduction 25, no. 2 (2009): 544-551.|
|↑2||Diamanti-Kandarakis, Evanthia, Helen Kandarakis, and Richard S. Legro. “The role of genes and environment in the etiology of PCOS.” Endocrine 30, no. 1 (2006): 19-26.|
|↑3||Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists|
|↑4||Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).Tarrant Cares|