Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic condition that can lead to several complications, ranging from infertility to cancer of the endometrium. This September 1 – 15 is PCOS Awareness Month!
In every menstrual cycle, follicles develop in the ovaries. Eggs advance inside those follicles, one of which will achieve development faster than the others and will be discharged into the fallopian tubes. This is called the “ovulation” phase. The remaining follicles will degenerate. If one has polycystic ovaries, their size is bigger than usual, and there is a collection of undeveloped follicles that show up in clusters which look like a bunch of grapes (on ultrasound). Polycystic ovaries are not particularly troublesome and may not even influence your fertility.
But when the ovarian pimples create a hormonal irregularity, it leads to PCOS. So, one can have polycystic ovaries without having PCOS. But, almost all women with PCOS will have polycystic ovaries. So, it’s helpful to remember these basics about the condition:
- “Syndrome” essentially implies a set of symptoms that happen together, in a pattern.
- “Polycystic” implies an aggregation of not entirely advanced follicles (pimples) in the ovaries.
PCOS refers to a health issue, where there may be numerous blisters in the ovaries, joined by a notable pattern of symptoms.
Symptoms of PCOS
• Sporadic or irregular periods
• Skin breakouts or pimples
• Trouble in conceiving/infertility
• Excess hair on the face and body (where men typically have hair)
• Diminishing scalp hair
• Weight problems or heaviness that is predominantly around the midriff
• Pigmentation, particularly on the neck and underarms.
• Polycystic ovaries (seen on ultrasound)
Effects of PCOS
The most pivotal thing for you to note is that PCOS is not just a periods-related issue. Women with PCOS fail to understand that they have an increasing danger of contracting various long-term issues. It is vital to get a check-up done by your gynaecologist regularly.
The following are some effects of PCOS:
• Infertility: PCOS is regularly diagnosed after disappointment in attempting to conceive for a while. Until then, many women ignore their symptoms as simply troublesome and not deserving of a visit to the gynaecologist. Trouble in origination is generally because of a hormonal aggravation which represses ovulation (creation and arrival of eggs from the ovary).
• Diabetes (Type 2): Women with PCOS are generally susceptible to the ill effects of Type 2 diabetes by the age of 44 years. So, it’s very important for those with PCOS to take genuine lifestyle measures, such as dietary changes and exercise, in order to accord themselves greater protection from diabetes.
• High cholesterol and cardiovascular disease: The hormonal imbalances connected with PCOS further create irregularity in the different cholesterols. There is a propensity for the HDL (exceptional cholesterol) to be low and the LDL (awful cholesterol) to be brought up in women with PCOS. Since cardiovascular sickness is nearly identified with cholesterol, the danger of such infection (heart ambushes) is imminent in women with PCOS.
• Cancer of the endometrium: As women with PCOS have rare ovulation, they are prone to nonstop oestrogen and no progesterone all around the menstrual cycle. This increases the risk of developing cancer of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus).
Treatment of PCOS
The medication for PCOS primarily relies on upon the symptoms. Essentially, medicine might be separated into two classifications, depending upon the condition of the patient.
• Medicine for improving fertility
• Medicine for symptoms other than infertility
Either way, lifestyle improvement is the backbone of medicine for ladies with PCOS. A healthy diet and regular diet can help to mitigate most of the side effects of PCOS. If you are overweight and have PCOS, shedding the extra kilos is one of the best things you can do for your body.
Whether you are overweight, underweight or fall within the average weight range, the diet you follow is key. Two types of diets have been recommended for women with PCOS. The diet that is best, though, is a process of trial and error for most women.
Whichever diet you choose, the one thing to always keep in mind is the amount of calories you consume.
• Low-sugar weight control plans: It advocates a complete no to starches, which means that protein-rich foods such as eggs, chicken and fish make up the bulk of your diet. However, such foods could be high in fat and may not be suitable for some.
• Low GI diet: This is more recommended for PCOS patients needing to shed pounds. GI stands for glycaemic index, which indicates how a carbohydrate affects your blood glucose. The aim is to pick foods that have a low GI, as they cause a slower rise in blood glucose and insulin. You feel full sooner and satiated for longer. Wholegrains and non-starchy vegetables are encouraged in such a diet.
Whichever diet you choose, the one thing to always keep in mind is the amount of calories you consume. Consuming five to six small meals in a day will keep sugar levels in check and prevent you from feeling hungry.
Exercising is very important for women with PCOS. A step a day can pave the way for a better lifestyle. Losing weight can be fun, and do wonders to your health and self-esteem.
1. Start small with a 30-minute walk every day. You can then slowly increase the time and intensity of your exercise. Including a relative or companion in your routine can make it more fun.
2. You can turn to swimming, running, cycling, or playing a game like badminton, tennis, etc. to instil the habit of exercise.
3. Climb the stairs rather than taking the lift.
4. Walk whenever you can. If you’re at work, avoid electronic communications and walk to convey your messages!
5. Move around the house with some music.
Dr. Witty Raina (MD MRCOG) has more than 20 years of experience in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology. Read more about her here.