Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal disorder that happens to women of the reproductive age. The word ‘polycystic’ means many cysts. These cysts or small fluid-filled sacs grow inside the ovaries. The sacs contain immature eggs which prevent ovulation. The lack of ovulation triggers the release of androgens (male hormones) further causing a hormonal imbalance. This chaos in the bloodstream can lead to the following symptoms for you to realise that you might be suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Ovarian Syndrome Symptoms:
● Missed, irregular, prolonged or infrequent periods.
● Excess androgens can cause hair loss from the scalp
● Hirsutism: Growth of unwanted hair (facial hair)
● Darkened skin on the neck/ armpits
● Mood changes
● Pelvic pain
● Difficulty in maintaining healthy weight
While there’s no exact known reason behind polycystic ovarian syndrome, there’s a high probability that the following if not one among them may be the cause.
1. Heredity: Studies suggest women with mothers who faced the same trouble in their reproductive age are more likely to have this disorder.
2. Excess androgen: When the ovaries produce abnormally high levels of androgen, the body finds it troublesome to ovulate. The increased androgen production may happen through some androgen inducing foods, excessive exercise or may even be because of your genes. Furthermore, excessive androgen in the body causes conditions like hirsutism and acne which add to your trouble.
3. Excess insulin: A hormone produced in the pancreas, insulin allows cells in your body to use sugar. Excessive insulin production happens when the body isn’t able to work well with the already produced insulin. This is called insulin resistance and may lead to extra amounts of insulin in the body. The excess insulin may cause a rise in androgen production which creates difficulty in ovulation.
If your diagnosis confirms you having at least two of these three conditions, doctors term the disease polycystic ovarian syndrome.
1. Irregular and infrequent periods
2. Higher number of androgen hormones in the body
3. More than 12 cysts in your ovaries
The gynaecologist will perform certain tests and exams to check the above three.
1. Physical exam:
During this exam, the gynaecologist will check your weight, blood pressure, acne and facial hair on your skin and your waist size.
2. Pelvic Exam:
While examining the pelvic, the gynaecologist aims to check if your ovaries are enlarged or swollen. She intends to check for signs indicating extra male hormones in your bloodstream; it may be an enlarged clitoris.
3. Sonogram (pelvic ultrasound):
During a sonogram, the gynaecologist checks your ovaries for cysts while also examining the lining of your uterus (the endometrium).
4. Blood tests:
With blood tests, the doctors aim to check for signs like diabetes and high cholesterol. They check if any hormonal issues lead to diseases like thyroid. But firstly, they measure your androgen hormone levels in these blood tests.
Ovarian Syndrome Treatment:
The best treatment is to make lifestyle changes. It’s important to lose that extra weight and then maintain a healthy weight with proper diet and regular exercise. If this practice is not well in place, medicines might work only temporarily. So, make sure to take care of your health even if that means 10 minutes of exercise daily or replacing snacks with nuts to chew on.
To complement your efforts on the lifestyle front, the following common medical treatments can be taken.
● Birth control pills
● Hair removal medicines
Why is treatment for PCOS so crucial?
That’s because Polycystic ovarian syndrome can affect your life badly in a lot of ways. Here are some of them.
1. Infertility: Ovulation is a necessary process to happen in women. It helps them become pregnant and bring a new being into the world. But, with PCOS troubling, ovulation doesn’t happen regularly. This means not enough eggs are released to be fertilised which ultimately can lead to infertility.
2. Metabolic syndrome: With PCOS comes the trouble of managing your weight. Studies suggest that almost 80% of women with PCOS are likely to be overweight if not obese. This isn’t a good news as both obesity and PCOS are factors that increase your risk for high blood sugar, high blood pressure, good cholesterol (low HDL), and bad cholesterol (high LDL). Together this implies a greater risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
3. Sleep apnea: A condition that interrupts your sleep and may even disturb your sleep cycle, Sleep apnea is known to cause repeated pauses in breathing while you sleep at night.
4. Endometrial cancer: The lining on your uterus is known as the endometrium. This lining sheds during the process of ovulation. But, with PCOS it is not possible to ovulate regularly which means the lining that needs to shed now keeps building up. The resulting thickened uterine lining can lead to an increased risk of endometrial cancer.
5. Depression: With unwanted hair growth, acne, mood swings and other hormonal changes, it becomes difficult to avoid negative thoughts. Also, all this becomes stressful as you have a feeling that everything’s out of your control. In this society that we live in, looks and appearance matter a lot. With PCOS keeping proper care of your looks may become a hassle. A hassle that you might not want to share with anyone.
For example, women with hirsutism (excessive hair growth) have to keep shaving their faces and other body parts to look normal. Some women try to use makeup to hide their acne and blemishes, but then it only makes their face look cakey thus, making them appear not-so-beautiful. With so much of hassle, it’s common to break down emotionally. Thereby, leading to depression, which is something we should avoid at all costs.
The Bottom Line
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition faced by women of reproductive age which can make them infertile or may lead to severe conditions like Endometrial cancer as well. As a woman of the same age, you must visit an experienced gynaecologist as soon as you observe symptoms like irregular periods, acne, obesity, or facial hair growth.
With almost 25 years of experience, Dr Sheetal Agarwal has observed many such cases in her lifetime and can help you treat the disease with ease.
If you have any questions or have observed any symptoms, book a consultation with her right away!