Polycystic ovary syndrome(PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. All women produce a small number of male hormones called androgens. In PCOS, women produce higher than normal levels of androgens. Most women who have PCOS don’t know about it. They realise it only when they face difficulty in getting pregnant or have irregular periods.
PCOS usually shows its effects in 3 ways:
Difficulty in getting pregnant
Multiple cysts in the ovaries
Hair and Skin:
Excess body hair
Excessive hair loss (alopecia)
Darkened skin patches
Mental and Emotional Health:
Frequent mood swings
Depression and anxiety
Though doctors don’t know what exactly causes PCOS, they believe that the following influence its presence:
Genes: Studies show that PCOS runs in families. Immediate relatives (daughters or sisters etc.) of women with PCOS have a 50% chance of having the problem.
Insulin Resistance: If the body is insulin resistant, it doesn’t use the available insulin effectively to help keep glucose levels stable. Because the insulin is not working effectively, the body produces more insulin. This increases the production of androgens such as testosterone.
Overweight: Being overweight worsens the symptoms of PCOS.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Doctors usually diagnose PCOS by way of:
Pelvic Examination: To check for any growths in the ovaries or uterus.
Blood Tests: To check for higher than normal levels of male hormones.
Ultrasound: To check for abnormal follicles and problems in the ovaries and uterus.
Birth Control Pills: Taking estrogen and progestin daily can bring back normal hormonal balance, regulate ovulation and relieve the symptoms of excessive hair growth.
Metformin: is a medicine taken to treat diabetes. It improves the insulin levels in the body and hence helps in the treatment of PCOS.
Clomiphene: is a fertility medicine to help women with PCOS get pregnant.
Hair Removal Medicines: help in getting rid of excessive hair or slow hair growth.
Surgery: Ovarian drilling can be done to make tiny holes in the ovary to restore normal ovulation.
A lifestyle change is the most important step in treating PCOS. Doctors usually recommend the above medicines only if there is no improvement after making significant lifestyle changes. In the next article, we will see what are the key lifestyle changes required to keep PCOS in check.
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