Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder seen in young females which is manifested by irregular periods, acne, facial hair, excess androgens in the body, and typical polycystic ovaries on ultrasound.
What are the Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is seen in young ladies. They may have any 2 of the following three symptoms
- Irregular periods:
The periods do not occur every month. They are delayed and happen irregularly in 2 or 3 months or even up to 6 months. Sometimes the periods do not happen without taking medication.
- Excess hair growth :
This is due to excess male hormones (androgens) in the body /hyperandrogenism: In PCOS, there is increased production of male sex hormones from the ovaries. This results in acne, facial hair and excess hair growth on other body parts. Coarse, dark hair may appear on the face, back, chest and upper arms and legs.
- Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound:
The ultrasound picture shows that ovaries contain many follicles (cysts) arranged all around in the periphery as a “pearl necklace” pattern. Each ovary has 12-25 such follicles which cause them to become bulky.
What are the Causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown
- Genetic role: Studies show that certain genes may be linked to PCOS.
- Insulin Resistance: It is the root cause of the metabolic disorders associated with PCOS. It means that your body can make insulin but it cannot use it effectively. It is present in 50-75% of PCOS patients. As a result of insulin resistance, the blood sugar level may be normal but the insulin levels in the body are high and this leads to a variety of diseases associated with PCOS.
- High levels of androgens: The ovaries produce high levels of male hormones (androgens). This leads to acne, facial hair and excess hair growth on body parts like the chest, abdomen, back and upper arms and legs. This is called hirsutism.
Does PCOS Cause Infertility?
Yes, PCOS is a major cause of infertility. In PCOS, there is anovulation. An egg is formed and released every month from the ovaries in a lady. But in PCOS, due to hormonal imbalance, the egg does not develop leading to infertility.
What is the best diet for PCOS? Which foods to eat and which foods are to be avoided?
Maintaining the recommended BMI plays an important role in PCOS management. Weight loss helps in decreasing the symptoms and long-term complications. The diet recommended for PCOS is
- The Low Glycemic index diet: This diet does not cause a rapid increase in glucose and insulin levels in the body after meals. This includes whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables and other unprocessed low carbohydrate foods.
- The Anti-Inflammatory diet: Includes berries, fish and green leafy vegetables.
Healthy home-cooked meals should be taken and junk food should be avoided. A healthy PCOS diet includes natural, unprocessed, high fibre foods like green leafy vegetables like spinach, nuts like walnuts and almonds, whole grains, fresh fruits, fish, avocado, and broccoli, cauliflower and spices like turmeric and cinnamon.
The foods to be avoided are soft drinks and colas, refined carbohydrates, white bread, pastries, fried foods, burgers, pizzas and red meat.
How can One Lose Weight with PCOS?
Losing weight may be difficult in PCOS because of the associated hormonal imbalance and insulin resistance. However, the following steps help in the weight loss journey
- Reduce carbohydrate and fat intake
- Eat plenty of fibre and protein
- Exercise regularly: Cardio exercises like brisk walking, swimming, running and jogging are good for weight loss. These also increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin.
- Practice mindful eating
- Adequate sleep: Helps in emotional and immunological health and maintains blood sugar levels.
What is the Treatment of PCOS?
There is no cure for PCOS but medications may help to control it
- Lifestyle modifications: include a healthy diet and regular exercise to maintain ideal body weight. This helps in controlling the symptoms of PCOS and also regularizing the menstrual cycles.
- Insulin sensitizers: like Metformin and Inositols help in managing insulin resistance. Metformin helps in weight loss, improving egg quality and regulating menstrual cycles.
- Ovulation-inducing agents: Drugs like Letrozole and Clomiphene helps in the formation of eggs and thus in the treatment of PCOS-related infertility.
- Hormonal pills: may be used to cause regular menstruation, especially in young unmarried females.
Can PCOS be Cured?
There is no permanent cure for PCOS. It is a hormonal disorder with metabolic side effects. Therefore, lifestyle changes, exercise, a healthy diet and medicines it can be brought under control.
What is the Difference Between PCOS and PCOD?
Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) is a condition in which the women’s ovaries produce immature or partially mature eggs. These develop into follicular cysts in the ovaries the so-called polycystic ovaries. Overweight, stress and hormonal imbalance are the causes of PCOD.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a more severe form of PCOD. Just like PCOD, in PCOS also there are polycystic Ovaries but in addition, in PCOS, there are hormonal and metabolic disturbances like insulin resistance, facial and body hair and infertility. PCOS is, therefore, more serious and has more complications.
Both PCOD and PCOS involve the ovaries. But PCOS is a syndrome and thus affects the metabolism and functioning of various organs of the body, unlike PCOD which largely affects the ovaries.
How can PCOS affect my future life, are there any long-term complications?
PCOS can cause miscarriage, Diabetes, hypertension, endometrial cancer and heart disease in the long term. Therefore, frequent health checkups are essential for early diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Mona Dahiya is a world-renowned IVF Specialist who has helped many couples with PCOS become parents. Headed by Dr Mona Dahiya, Little Angel IVF Centre is considered the Best IVF Centre in Delhi NCR.