PCOS – Symptoms, Risks & Management

One in five women in India is diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones (androgen). This endocrine system disorder that affects over 27% of women during their childbearing years exhibits symptoms ranging from weight gain, facial hair, fatigue, irregular menstrual cycles, pelvic pain and more. 

Though the doctors don’t know what explicitly causes PCOS – it could stem from factors such as genes, insulin resistance, stress and body inflammation. One other significant cause for PCOS is an unhealthy lifestyle – lack of physical activity, harmful eating habits, and sedentary desk jobs are a few other added factors. 

Common Symptoms 

  • Irregular periods or no periods at all.
  • Excessive hair growth on the face, chest, and back. This condition is also called Hirsutism.
  • Hair loss or thinning from the head
  • Oily Skin and Acne 
  • Weight gain (almost 80% of women with PCOS are over-weight)
  • Difficulty in getting pregnant 
  • Some patients even experience headaches and darkening of the skin in the neck, groin, and under the breast areas.

Risks as you age:

  • Infertility – PCOS is one of the most common reasons for infertility. Due to irregular periods in women with PCOS, the ovulation cycles are affected; they either ovulate infrequently or fail to ovulate at all.
  • Sleep Apnoea – This is a condition where your breathing stops and starts while asleep, thus causing disturbed/interrupted sleep. Though this isn’t very common with PCOS, it is seen in women who are overweight.
  •  Depression – Hormonal changes typically cause mood swings, and symptoms like acne, being overweight and facial hair can adversely affect one’s confidence and self-esteem. 

The other risk factors of PCOS, if untreated or unmanaged, are the risks of developing type 2 diabetes and endometrial cancer (thickened uterine lining due to irregular menstrual cycles can cause this type of cancer) 

Managing PCOS

Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, can help manage PCOS in adolescent girls and women. Most doctors recommend weight loss as the first step in combating this disorder. There is no alternative to physical exercise. Even a slight reduction in your weight (about 5 percent of your body weight) might improve your condition. Weight loss can also reduce insulin and androgen levels and restore ovulation in women with fertility problems. 

Carbohydrates and simple sugars should be eliminated as far as possible, as high-carbohydrate diets might increase insulin levels. Alternatives to simple sugar are sugar in the form of vegetables and fruits. We cannot stress enough how being active can help you deal with the disorder. Staying active and exercising regularly may treat or even prevent insulin resistance and help you keep your weight under control and avoid developing diabetes.

Having a holistic approach towards tackling this disorder is the way to go! Have a positive attitude, get adequate sleep, stay active, and eat healthily.

Note: This article is based on secondary research data and is reviewed by a physician.