What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal imbalance among women of childbearing age. In PCOS, the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of male hormones called androgens (specifically testosterone), which results in an imbalance between the male and female hormones in a woman’s body.
This imbalance disrupts the process of ovulation, which is the release of eggs from the ovaries every month. This results in irregular menstrual cycles and other symptoms of PCOS.
What are the Causes of PCOS?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, the following factors are found to play a significant role in causing PCOS.
- Insulin Resistance: Insulin resistance and the resultant hyperinsulinemia may lead to excess production of androgens in the body, causing difficulties in ovulation and PCOS symptoms.
- Excess Androgen Levels: Your ovaries may produce excess amounts of androgens, preventing them from releasing eggs, and causing irregular menstrual cycles and other PCOS symptoms.
- Low-Grade Inflammation: Studies suggest that women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation. The inflammation stimulates the ovaries to produce excess androgens.
- Heredity: Research shows that PCOS runs in families. Many women who have a family history of PCOS develop the condition.
What are the Symptoms of PCOS?
The symptoms of PCOS vary from person to person depending on their physiological condition. You may have PCOS and none of its associated symptoms.
Symptoms of PCOS include:
- Cysts on the ovaries
- Irregular periods
- Heavy bleeding
- Weight gain
- Abnormal hair growth
- Skin darkening
- Hair loss
Make sure to consult your doctor if you notice one or more of the above symptoms. Your doctor may perform a physical examination, ultrasound scans, and blood tests to diagnose PCOS. Read on to understand the treatment for PCOS.
What Constitutes PCOS Treatment?
You need to meet at least 2 of these 3 criteria to be diagnosed with PCOS:
- Irregular or missed periods
- Signs of excess androgen such as acne or excessive hair growth or blood test results confirm high androgen levels.
- Cysts on one or both ovaries.
PCOS is a chronic condition that cannot be completely cured. It can be effectively managed. PCOS symptoms and treatment are related. The treatment for PCOS also varies based on the medical history of the individual.
Since PCOS is the most common cause of infertility, the treatment for PCOS also depends on whether or not the individual wants to get pregnant.
The treatment of PCOS, whether you want to get pregnant or not, must include lifestyle changes. In PCOS treatment, diet changes, regular physical activity, and weight loss can play an important role.
Even a small reduction (5%) in your weight can help manage PCOS better. It can also help your body use insulin more efficiently and lower blood glucose levels, which may help you ovulate.
Treatment Options if You Want to Get Pregnant Immediately or in The Future
- Medications to Induce Ovulation
Your doctor may prescribe medications to induce ovulation. These medications can help the ovaries release eggs normally. Drugs such as metformin, clomiphene, and letrozole are taken orally, while gonadotropins are given by injection to induce ovulation.
- In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
In in vitro fertilisation (IVF), matured eggs are retrieved from your ovaries and fertilised with your partner’s sperm in a lab. The fertilised eggs are then transferred into your uterus where they may grow into a healthy pregnancy. It is an option for women with PCOS when medication doesn’t help with ovulation.
Treatment Options if You do Not Want to Get Pregnant
- Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control can be in the form of pills, patches, shots, vaginal rings, or intrauterine devices (IUDs). This treatment modality can help regulate your periods and improve PCOS symptoms such as acne and excess hair growth. Hormonal birth control uses a combination of oestrogen and progestin to decrease androgen production and regulate oestrogen levels in the body.
- Insulin-Sensitising Medication
Metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes, is also used as a part of the treatment protocol for PCOS. It works by reducing insulin resistance. Once insulin is controlled, some women with PCOS may see improvements in their menstrual cycles.
What are the Complications of PCOS?
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. In PCOS, the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of male hormones called androgens, which results in irregularities with ovulation and menstrual cycles.
- Factors that may contribute to causing PCOS include insulin resistance, excess androgen levels in the body, low-grade inflammation, and heredity.
- Symptoms of PCOS include cysts, irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, infertility, darkened skin, skin tags, acne, excess hair growth on your body, etc.
- The treatment for PCOS would differ based on whether you are planning to get pregnant in the future or not.
- If you are planning for pregnancy later, your treatment measures would include healthy lifestyle changes, medications to induce ovulation, and in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
- If you are not planning to get pregnant, the treatment would include healthy lifestyle changes, hormonal birth control, and insulin-sensitising medication.
- If untreated, PCOS may cause long-term complications like infertility, prediabetes, gestational diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, premature birth, anxiety, depression, sleep apnoea, endometrial cancer, etc.
- Start your PCOS management journey with Phable. Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading gynaecologists, endocrinologists, nutritionists, and dieticians; order medicines; book lab tests; and get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Check out our store to order healthy treats, weighing scales, fitness bands, and more! We also have a PCOS Management program that provides 360º care.
PCOS is managed with a combination of healthy lifestyle changes and medications to induce ovulation or improve insulin sensitivity. Your doctor may suggest following a low-calorie diet and regular exercise to keep your weight in check and improve PCOS symptoms.
Yes, PCOS is a serious problem which can cause infertility in women. It also increases the risk of complications such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and uterine cancer in women.
If you are diagnosed with PCOS, make sure that you avoid a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of refined and processed foods. Try to avoid the consumption of alcohol and quit smoking. Make sure that you get enough sleep and adopt stress management techniques.
PCOS cannot be cured naturally. In fact, there is no cure for PCOS, it can only be managed effectively. PCOS treatment and management focus on maintaining ideal body weight by following a healthy diet and regular exercise. Some individuals may need hormone therapy and medications for the management of PCOS symptoms.