A complex disorder that affects ovaries in women, the actual causes of this disease which may make women unable to conceive and bear children are still unknown. In this post we will talk about it is is and what are its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and risk associated with this prevalent women’s disease and how to get treatment for PCOS.
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder in women resulting in enlarged ovaries with the formation of numerous small cysts in the ovaries.
In PCOS ovaries secrete excessive amounts of male sex hormones that are otherwise present in small amounts in females.
In simplest terms, PCOS is a hormonal disorder which affects reproductive organs of woman that produces hormones like estrogen and progesterone. These female sex hormones are responsible for fertility through regulation of menstrual cycle.
In long term, PCOS can also lead to major lifestyle disease like diabetes and heart diseases.
How Common Is PCOS?
It is a common problem in about one in ten women (8 to 13 %) of childbearing age. In India, about 3.7-22.5% of women are affected with this problem. 
Most of the women suffering from PCOS ( about 70%) are not diagnosed worldwide. It affects their overall health and appearance.
Who is at Risk for PCOS?
Women have a high risk of developing PCOS if:
- It runs in the family
- Insulin resistance
- Unexpected weight gain or obesity
- Heavy birth weight baby girls born to overweight mothers
- High levels of Androgens and Insulin in the bloodstream
- Sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits.
Symptoms Of PCOS
Menses may be absent, infrequent, irregular, sometimes scanty, or prolonged. In the long term, it may cause excessive period pain and menstrual cramps.
Stress and Anxiety
Excessive hair growth on the chin and upper lips, also known as hirsutism in females. Unwanted body hair due to increased levels of androgens.
Excessive weight gain with more fat concentrated towards the belly area.
The texture of skin changes to a darker shade especially in the armpit air and around the back of the neck resulting from insulin resistance and increased amount of insulin.
Oily Skin and Male Pattern Baldness
Acne, oily skin, and dandruff with hair fall and receding hairline-like male pattern baldness.
Diagnosis Of PCOS
Any woman with these clinical features may be referred to a specialist either an endocrinologist or gynecologist. He may advise an ultrasound and a certain blood test to check hormone levels to confirm the diagnosis.
Causes and Risk Factors
What Causes PCOS?
The exact causes of PCOS are unknown but the following causes may contribute to abnormal hormonal levels.
- Insulin Resistance
Women having PCOS often develop insulin resistance. Tissues become resistant to insulin due to which the body needs to secrete more insulin leading the ovaries to produce more testosterone. Excess of testosterone interferes with the normal function of ovaries and prevents ovulation.
- Hormonal Imbalances
PCOS is associated with hormonal imbalances and is characterized by the following:
- High levels of testosterone hormones.
- High levels of luteinising hormone (LH)
- Low levels of sex hormone-binding Globulin
- High levels of prolactin (only in some women with PCOS)
- Hereditary Traits
PCOS sometimes may be hereditary. Your risk of developing PCOS increases if your mother, sister, aunts, or grandmothers from maternal or paternal sides already have PCOS.
Treatment Goals For PCOS
Treatment of PCOS does not follow any strict route. Goals for the treatment of PCOS must take into consideration patients’ medical history records and preferences into account, what symptoms concern them the most. They may generally include the following:
- Treating Infertility
- Controlling Hypoandrogenic Features
- Metabolic Complications
- Management of Weight
- Glucose Tolerance
Treatment Options For PCOS
A customized treatment plan is necessary for most women suffering from PCOS. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor will suggest medications and lifestyle changes.
Following medicines are used to treat PCOS symptoms, but one should never take them without consulting a medical practitioner.
Used in treating acne, excessive hair growth, fluid build-up, and high blood pressure.
Used to regulate blood sugar levels, stimulate ovulation, and improve menstrual cycle.
- Birth Control Pills
Pills containing a combination of both estrogen and progestin reduce the level of excess androgen, improve irregular menstrual cycles, and reduce the growth of acne and excess hairs.
Various studies assert the fact that alternative medicines have proven to be effective in treating PCOS symptoms. However, one should always consult their professional doctor before venturing into alternative medication treatments to make sure it does not interfere with any prescribed medication.
The following herbs have proven to be beneficial in resting several PCOS symptoms and improving women’s health.
Kanchanar Guggulu is a powerful formula that aids in eliminating toxins and wastes from the body. Known for its impressive healing properties, kanchanar is also used to correct PMS, menstrual irregularities, and hormonal imbalances, as well as to lose weight.
Shatavari is a strong herb that is prescribed for treating a wide variety of reproductive and other health issues affecting women. It balances hormones and maintains the ovarian plexus preventing new cysts from forming, as well as preventing remission of the disease.
Furthermore, Shatavari enhances the health of the uterus and ovaries, supports uterine and ovarian health, and maintains the duration of the menstrual cycle (3-7 days).
Bilva is valued for its potent medicinal properties and for its bioactive compounds that aid in reducing the size of cysts and reducing dysfunctional uterine bleeding as a result of PCOS.
Purnarnava supports women’s reproductive health by enhancing hormone production and correcting hormonal imbalances. It has been known to increase blood circulation, stimulate insulin production, and treat PCOS.
Lifestyle Changes For PCOS
Taking medication for PCOS symptoms only will not help in overpowering it.
PCOS affects the body both physically and mentally and to manage it one must also inculcate healthy dietary and lifestyle changes in their life.
Keep Moving Around. PCOS is mostly characterized by unexpected weight gain and not maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
You should denote at least half an hour of your day for physical exercise: be it brisk walking, going to the gym, or practicing yoga.
Eat a balanced diet while practicing healthy portion control. Consume a fiber-rich diet, to help with insulin resistance. Limit your carbohydrate intake and add high-protein foods.
A woman suffering from PCOS is more likely to be prone to certain medical complications. These complications may vary from person to person.
Long-Term Complications Of PCOS
Various PCOS comorbidities may contribute to infertility. Insulin resistance and obesity alone increase the risk of abortion.
PCOS may also cause endometrial abnormalities. It is a condition in which the tissues lining in the uterus of female grows outside the uterus. It may affect the implantation and result in difficulty in conceiving.
PCOS increases the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases for instance hypertension, heart failure, aortic disease, stroke, and so on.
PCOS increases the oncology risk that is there is a high risk of developing ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and breast cancer.
Preventing Complications Of PCOS
Learning about long-term complications of PCOS can demotivate any patient.
Even though complications arising due to PCOS are quite severe, one can still prevent them by embracing healthy dietary and lifestyle changes.
Go for regular checks at regular intervals to check your hormone levels and blood sugar levels, and have a full body check every once a year to be updated about your health.
PCOS and Weight Loss
Women with PCOS may struggle with weight loss. The journey to weight management may be challenging but it is not impossible.
With constant dedication and discipline, one will be able to manage their weight and achieve a healthy fit.
All you need to do is build a routine and be true to it. Eat healthy and exercise regularly.
Find an alternative to overcome your cravings, and replace unhealthy junk with healthy snacks.
Be patient and your continuous efforts will show progress.
Initially, results may be slower than that of a person not suffering from PCOS but in the long run you will be able to reduce weight.
PCOS and Mental Health
Women having PCOS are at higher risk of experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which affect overall mental health.
They cannot maintain social relationships, are impatient and have a lower stress tolerance. This results in a lack of self-esteem and confidence.
Hormonal imbalance such as excess of testosterone, and lack of estrogen, plays a crucial role in this and leads to irritability and brain fog. High insulin resistance also increases the risk of depression.
PCOS and Relationships
Dealing with PCOS is not easy. Women do not develop PCOS just because they are too lazy to focus on their bodies.
One has to deal with a lot, from dealing with health issues like unexpected weight gain to feeling a range of emotions that are out of control.
It’s not only emotionally draining but also exhausting and may also affect one’s productivity.
Due to hormonal imbalances, women are more likely to feel irritated, anxious, and physically tired.
All of this can affect their relationships, be it on a personal or professional front.
Living with PCOS is a struggle. PCOS cannot be cured, and one has to take really good care of themselves to make sure they lead a healthy life.
Although symptoms of PCOS can be treated, still it cannot be taken lightly.
One has to put in extra effort to remain in shape and make sure that their hormones are at a healthy balance by going for regular health checkups and taking tests.
Long-term complications arising out of PCOS can be life-threatening and even rob women of their birthright to embrace motherhood if not taken care of properly.
Nidhi Bhardwaj is a content writer with a creative edge towards science. She is currently pursuing her MBA.
Her love for expressing via words has inspired her to venture into creative writing. She is intrigued to explore various unfamiliar fields and treasures of knowledge the world has to offer.
She desires to share her experience and learnings with readers from all walks of life.