Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS),also known as Stein Levnethal Syndrome or hyperandrogenic anovulation (HA), is the most common hormonal disorder in females and leads to an array of gynecological problems such as irregular periods. PCOS can even interfere with your chances of getting pregnant. It is one of the alarming causes of infertility in females across the globe.
Women affected with PCOS generally grow small cysts on their ovaries; thus the name. By themselves, these cysts are harmless, but they do cause the hormones to behave strangely, and can even affect the way you look.
What are hormones and how PCOS affects them?
The body growth and energy functions are triggered by the behavior of hormones, which act as chemical messengers that are secreted directly into the blood, which further carries them to organs and tissues of the body to exert their functions. Every aspect of bodily function is a response to hormones, and PCOS causes these hormones to go out of balance. One change triggers another and so on. The reasons for this disbalancing, however, are not yet completely understood. Two major hormone changes due to PCOS are as follows:
- Normally the ovaries secrete small quantity of male hormone androgens but in PCOS they start secreting slightly more quantities of androgens and this adversely affects the process of ovulation, causes acne and increases the appearance of body and facial hair
- Insulin is required for the metabolism of sugars in the body but in PCOS its level is also hampered. The insulin hormone is also not utilized properly by the body and this leads to rise in blood sugar level. The ultimate consequence is increased vulnerability to diabetes
Causes of PCOS
The exact cause of PCOS is still unknown; however it is seen to run in families. Genetics from either of the parent’s side can cause PCOS.
PCOS occurs due to hormonal imbalance in your ovaries and brain. The condition is usually seen when the level of LH (luteinizing hormone) of the pituitary or the insulin of pancreas is too high. Their high level is responsible for increased production of androgen or male hormone in the ovary.
Symptoms of PCOS
The most frequent symptoms of PCOS are as under:
- Appearance of acne
- Unexplained weight gain or sudden loss of weight
- Excessive hair growth on face and body
- Thinning of scalp hair
- Irregular menses- some females experience scanty periods while some might have heavy periods. Some women get fewer than 9 periods a year
- Infertility issues-PCOS creates problem and makes pregnancy difficult for women
- Depression is also common in PCOS
- Pelvic pain
- Deep hoarse voice
- Decrease in breast size
Medically speaking PCOS is a condition where the level of female sex hormones progesterone and estrogen is deranged and this causes the formation of ovarian cysts (which are actually benign masses in ovaries).
Diagnosis of PCOS
A thorough review of your medical history and symptoms is helpful in making the diagnosis as no definitive tests are available for PCOS.
- General physical and pelvic examination is performed by your doctor to check for swollen clitoris or ovaries- an important diagnostic sign of PCOS
- Hematological test are done to find out the level of various hormones such as:
- Thyroid function test for assessing the level of thyroid hormone in blood
- Blood sugar test for analyzing the level of sugars in blood
- Lipid level for assessing the level of cholesterol in blood
- Transvaginal sonography is done to see the actual condition of ovaries and other gynecological structures
- Pelvic laparascopy is also done to check the presence of any growth on the surface of ovaries
The treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome is focused on controlling the symptoms and avoiding the appearance of complications.
In obese women, healthy balanced diet and daily exercise are helpful in regulating your menstrual problems and falling glucose levels.
Here are some effective weight management tips for overweight females
- Eat a lot of high-fibers instead of sweet sugary carbohydrates
- Eat small frequent healthy meals and stay away from large fatty meals
- Include a lot of fresh green vegetables and fresh seasonal fruits in your diet
- Do regular exercises and keep your weight under control
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills can be advised to women who do not want to become pregnant. This is effective in curing acne and regulation of deranged periods.
Birth control drugs are given as they can:
- Rectify your hormonal imbalance
- Decrease the level of testosterone
- Regularize your menstrual cycle
- Lessen the threat of endometrial cancer
- Check the risk of unplanned pregnancy
Fertility and anti-androgen drugs
- In infertile women, fertility drugs can be given to promote ovulation
- The level of male hormone androgen is controlled by anti-androgen drugs. It is important for checking the growth of hair and anti-diabetic drugs can be administered for treating diabetes
- Ovarian drilling is an invasive procedure where the ovaries are punctured with the help of small needles bearing electric current to damage the small part of ovarian cysts
However it is not a permanent treatment.
Complications of PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome can disturb a woman’s menstrual cycle, cardiac functioning, general appearance and fertility. Besides this PCOS is a pre-disposing factor for health ailments like diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, etc.
The women having polycystic ovarian syndrome are at the potential risk of having following complications
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Depression and anxiety
- Sleep apnea (periodic cessation of respiration during sleep)
- Uterine and endometrial cancer
- Breast cancer
- If a woman becomes pregnant with PCOS she is regarded as a high risk pregnancy
- Miscarriages and gestational diabetes are very common in women having PCOS
The most important point to keep in mind is to immediately consult your doctor if you notice any of the above listed symptoms.