What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in which a woman’s hormones go out of balance and may cause some changes in your looks such as unwanted hair growth and acne. It can cause problems with the periods and hence lead to Infertility. If it is not treated, over time it can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. PCOS is common, affecting as many as 1 out of 10 women.
PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. Approximately five to ten percent of women of childbearing age have PCOS. Most women with PCOS don’t even know that they have it. Most women do not get a diagnosis until they begin trying to get pregnant. Some of the symptoms of PCOS may be overlooked until a woman starts trying to conceive a baby.
- Poor intake of iron in diet. Iron is needed to make red blood cells. When women loose blood, they also loose iron. This happens in pregnancy due to the fact that the woman must supply iron to both herself and her baby. Iron is replaced by vitamin supplements or in the diet.
- Folic acid deficiency. Folic acid is a Vitamin B, which is needed to produce red blood cells.
- Chronic illness
- Blood Loss from bleeding hemorrhoids or gastrointestinal bleeding
- Even if iron and folic acid intake are sufficient, a pregnant woman may become anemic because pregnancy alters the digestive process. The unborn child consumes some of the iron or folic acid normally available to the mother’s body.
The most common symptoms are:
- Thinning hair on the scalp.
- Weight gain and trouble losing weight.
- Extra hair on the face and body. Often women get thicker and darker facial hair and more hair on the chest, belly, and back.
- Irregular periods. Often women with PCOS have fewer than nine periods a year. Some women have no periods. Others have very heavy bleeding.
- Fertility problems. Many women who have PCOS have trouble getting pregnant (infertility).
Most women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries. That is why it is called polycystic ovary syndrome. The cysts are not harmful but lead to hormone imbalances.
In PCOS the hormones get out of balance. Normally the ovaries make a tiny amount of male sex hormones called androgens. In PCOS, they start making slightly more androgens. This may cause you to stop ovulating, get acne, and grow extra facial and body hair.
Insulin Resistance is another root cause of PCOS, which prevents the efficient conversion of food into energy because the membranes of your cells have become de-sensitized to insulin. This causes glucose and insulin levels in your bloodstream to become unbalanced, leading to an increase in free-floating glucose, which is sent to your liver and converted to excess body fat. As a result, you may suffer from weight gain and obesity which in turn can lead not only to PCOS but also to other serious health conditions like Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
The symptoms of PCOS are caused by changes in hormone levels. There may be one or more causes for the hormone level changes.
PCOS seems to run in families, so your chance of having it is higher if other women in your family have PCOS, irregular periods, or diabetes. PCOS can be passed down from either your mother’s or father’s side.
PCOS can be treated depending on the patient’s condition
Because there is no cure for PCOS, it needs to be managed to prevent problems. Treatment goals are based on your symptoms, whether or not you want to become pregnant and lowering your chances of getting heart disease and diabetes. Many women will need a combination of treatments to meet these goals.
- Birth Control Pills :- This treatment is for women who do not want to be pregnant and still control their menstrual cycles. The pills reduce male hormone levels and help clear acne. However symptoms return once the pill is stopped.
- Diabetes Medications :- Metformin helps women with PCOS symptoms. It helps in lowering the testosterone production, it controls blood glucose, abnormal hair growth will slow down, ovulation may return after a few months use, it will also decrease body mass index [BMI] and improve cholesterol levels.
- Fertility Medications:- Lack of ovulation is usually seen in PCOS. This can be treated with the use of clomiphene citrate. Clomiphene citrate + Metformin is also used for ovulation stimulation. Another option is IVF with Gonadotropins treatment.
- Surgery :- Ovarian drilling is a surgery that brings on ovulation. It is used on some women who do not respond to fertility medicines. Laparoscopy is also another option.
- Life Style Modifications :- Many Women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Keeping a healthy weight by eating healthy foods and exercising is another way woman can manage PCOS. Even a 10 percent loss in body weight can restore a normal period and make a women’s cycle more regular.