What is PCOS?
PCOS is a condition that causes irregular menstrual periods with excessive facial/body hair growth, acne and/or male pattern scalp hair thinning. It occurs in one in ten women and many of them tend to be overweight or obese, and may find it difficult to conceive.
PCOS is also associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and sleep apnea.
Is it reversible?
It is not a completely reversible condition but the symptoms can definitely be reduced with a number of treatments that can help in leading a normal life.
What is the cause?
Though the exact cause is not known, hormonal imbalance and genetics play a major role in the development of PCOS. Women are more prone to develop PCOS if they have similar family history.
Over production of the androgen hormone can be another contributing factor (androgens are male sex hormones also produced in female bodies), affecting the development and release of the eggs during ovulation.
What are the common symptoms?
Commonest symptoms of PCOS are:
- Irregular periods and sometimes less than 8 periods in a year
- Abnormal hair growth on the upper lip, chin, sideburn area, chest, and abdomen
- Excessive weight gain/obesity
- Acne/ male pattern loss of scalp hair
- Difficulty in conceiving
The type and severity of symptoms may vary from person to person.
How is it diagnosed?
Absent or infrequent menstruation may raise suspicion. Your doctor may need to do an ultrasound to look for ovaries which may be enlarged and contain small collections of the fluid called follicles. Also, certain blood tests need to be done to measure the levels of hormones, blood sugar, and lipids.
PCOS can be diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical examination. Women diagnosed with PCOS need to be monitored by the doctor at regular visits, as untreated PCOS can increase the risk of other health problems in the long run.
Treatment and outcomes
If you are overweight or obese, losing at least 5-10% of your weight can improve many of the symptoms of PCOS like getting regular periods and improving your chances of getting pregnant.
If the periods are still irregular after weight loss, your doctor can help with certain medications to regularize periods and keep the blood sugar levels normal. Certain hormonal treatments will also be required to keep the abnormal hair growth and acne at bay.
At the same time, if you are trying for a pregnancy, it may take a while after all the above measures. If it still does not happen, your doctor can help you with some medications to ovulate. Always keep your morale high and not lose hope as it may be awhile before you lose weight, and have regular periods while trying for a pregnancy.
Change in lifestyle should always continue in the form of a healthy diet, regular exercise, and losing weight. Regular follow ups with your doctor and treatments will improve chances of pregnancy in women with PCOS and also help you live a normal and healthy life.
Written By :
Dr. Vandana Waghaye
MD (Obs & Gynec), DGO, MBBS
Specialist Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
PRIMACARE Speciality Clinic, Bur Dubai