What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a Hormonal imbalance caused due to high level of “Androgens” a male sex hormone. An estimated 20% of reproductive-aged women suffer from this disease forms small cysts is formed on enlarged ovaries at the outer edges. Symptoms can include menstrual cycle irregularity, acne, infertility, insulin resistance, excess hair growth, and obesity.
The Science of Infertility and associated Research is progressing to find out the exact causes of Polycystic ovaries. That said, the below Three factors are currently seen to be the primary reasons.
- 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 ANDROGEN LEVELS: 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.
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Hirsutism: Too much hair growth on the face, chest or back
- Acne or oily skin
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Hair thinning or hair loss
- Dark patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs (acanthosis nigricans)
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Mood swings, depression, or anxiety
- Signs of PCOS can be checked by a physical exam.
- Blood tests to measure hormone levels
- Pelvic exam to check ovaries for any signs of abnormalities.
- Transvaginal ultrasound to view the ovaries and check for cysts
Polycystic ovaries are not a life-threatening condition but the symptoms may be prolonged and therefore, the patient has to be on regular follow-up. The common question asked is “How can I reduce polycystic ovaries?
A holistic approach which involves lifestyle modification and medication can help to control and reduce the symptoms of PCOS to a large extent. The cycles will become regular and the lady can also become pregnant.
- Regular exercise and proper diet to maintain ideal BMI: Weight loss plays a very important role in the treatment of PCOS. The ideal BMI for Asian women is 18-23. Even a little weight reduction has a significant impact to improve the symptoms of PCOS. It helps to reduce the levels of Insulin and androgens and thus correct the hormonal imbalance. It also makes the menstrual cycles regular and resume ovulation. Thus, the lady can conceive naturally.
- Medications to improve symptoms: Insulin sensitizers like Metformin and Inositol help to improve insulin sensitivity. Metformin is a drug which is used to lower blood sugar levels in Diabetic patients. However, it is also used in PCOS for its benefit in improving insulin sensitivity. Metformin helps in weight loss and is also added in those ladies who are not responding to clomiphene alone for ovulation induction. Inositol is a supplement which has very few side effects and helps to improve symptoms of PCOS. It is used in 2 forms- Myoinositol and D- Chiro inositol (in a ratio of 40:1).
- Medications to cause ovulation: Medicines like Letrozole and Clomiphene are used to cause ovulation and get pregnant.
- Surgery: Laparoscopy is not the first-line treatment for PCOS. It is used only in those patients who are undergoing laparoscopy for instance for tubal testing. In the same sitting, ovarian drilling may be done. It is used in those patients who are not responding to clomiphene or Letrozole for ovulation induction.
- General health and control PCOS.
Can PCOS be Cured?
The causes of PCOS can be controlled with the right lifestyle modifications, proper diet, exercise and medications. 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.
Also Read: PCO vs PCOS
What Happens When you Have Polycystic Ovaries?
Polycystic Ovaries is a situation when about 12 or more small-sized follicles are formed inside the ovaries during ovulation with the appearance of a necklace pattern. The Following 3 Parameters based on Ultrasound diagnosis indicate the presence of Polycystic Ovaries.
- FNPO (follicle number per ovary) is ≥20
- Presence of Multiple Follicles small sized Follicles measuring (2-9) mm in Diameter.
- Enlarged Ovaries with a volume greater than 10 mm.
Are Polycystic Ovaries a Serious Disease?
Polycystic Ovaries are not a serious problem and 1 in 4 Women worldwide have polycystic ovaries. At times polycystic ovaries may be seen on ultrasound, however, there are no hormonal disturbances or symptoms. This is not serious at all. In other instances, polycystic ovaries are associated with symptoms and hormonal imbalance which is called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The hormonal and endocrine disturbances in PCOS may lead to Diabetes and heart disease later on in life and, therefore, it is important to be on regular follow-ups. Ladies with PCOS also have an increased risk of developing uterine cancer. However, with exercise and diet modification, and proper treatment, all these complications can be avoided. PCOS is not life-threatening and most women with PCOS do fine. However, lifestyle modifications have to be made to control the symptoms and the treatment may be long and tedious.
Also Read: PCOD vs PCOS
Can a Polycystic Ovaries Female get Pregnant?
Yes, definitely a polycystic ovaries lady can get pregnant even naturally.
In PCOS, the major cause of infertility is anovulation. The menstrual cycles are irregular and the egg is not released regularly every month. That is why she has infertility.
- Lifestyle modification: with proper diet, and regular exercise, the lady can maintain proper weight and this can make the cycles and ovulation regular. Thus, conception is possible.
- Medication to control the hormonal imbalance: Insulin sensitizers like metformin and Inositol help in managing insulin resistance. Metformin helps in increasing insulin sensitivity, weight loss and regulating the menstrual cycles.
- Medications for ovulation: Ovulation-inducing agents like Letrozole and Clomiphene help in egg formation and conception.
- ART procedures: If natural conception is not happening with the above, couples with PCOS can undergo Assisted Reproductive Techniques like IUI and IVF to improve their success rate.
How Long do Polycystic Ovaries Last?
PCOS is a hormonal and endocrine disorder and it can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for PCOS. The treatment is aimed at correcting the hormonal imbalance and with a holistic approach using life style modifications and medications, the symptoms can be controlled to a large extent. However, with advancing age there is an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, dyslipidaemia and cardiovascular complications.
Therefore, all PCOS patients should have routine follow-ups.
Should I be worried about PCOS?
No, one should not be worried about PCOS. It is not a life-threatening condition. However, one should be aware of the health complications that can be associated with PCOS and the remedial measures to treat them.
PCOS is associated with fertility issues and the lady can consult a Fertility Specialist. At the same time for the metabolic syndrome associated with PCOS which can lead to Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease, proper monitoring and treatment should be done.
What foods to avoid if you have polycystic ovaries?
All unhealthy, refined, oily and processed foods should be avoided in PCOS. Here is a list of 10 foods to be avoided in PCOS:
- Refined carbohydrates like white bread, pastries, pasta, noodles
- Oily foods like chips, French fries, pooris, pakoras
- Sugary foods like chocolates, candies, toffies
- Processed foods like sausages, salamis
- Fast food like burgers, patties, pizza
- Carbonated drinks like colas
- Alcohol, caffeine
- Red meat like pork and mutton
- Canned juices and fruit concentrates
- Vegetable oils should be avoided and ghee, coconut oil or olive oil or avocado oil should be used.
The diet for PCOS should contain whole grain cereals like millet, ragi, green leafy vegetables, fish and fresh fruits with a low glycaemic index like apples, oranges, cherries and high fibre foods and seeds and nuts.
Also Read: PCOS Diet Chart
Can Stress Cause Polycystic Ovaries?
Stress is known to worsen symptoms of PCOS. Many patients see an increase in the severity of PCOS symptoms with stress. Therefore, stress aggravates the symptoms of PCOS. It is a known fact that stress causes menstrual disturbances in women. Stress causes an increase in cortisol levels in the body. This hormone causes weight gain and affects the functioning of various organs of the body like the gut and the heart. These complicated interactions of hormones lead to aggravated PCOS symptoms. Exercise, breathing techniques and yoga should be practised to manage chronic stress and thus relieve symptoms of PCOS.
Q: Is there a cure for PCOS?
A: Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for PCOS. However, the symptoms can be managed with proper treatment and lifestyle changes.
Q: What kind of lifestyle changes can help manage PCOS symptoms?
A: Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can all help manage PCOS symptoms. Minimising stress & getting proper sleep can also be beneficial.
Q: What medications are used to treat PCOS?
A: Birth control pills, anti-androgen medications, and medications to regulate insulin levels, such as metformin, are commonly used to treat PCOS.
Q: Can fertility treatments help with PCOS?
A: Yes, fertility treatments such as Clomid or injections can help with ovulation and increase the chances of pregnancy for women with PCOS.
Q: Is surgery ever necessary to treat PCOS?
A: In some cases, surgery may be recommended to remove ovarian cysts or other abnormalities in the ovaries.
Q: How long does it take for PCOS treatment to work?
A: The length of time it takes for PCOS treatment to work can vary depending on the individual and the type of treatment used. In general, it may take several months to see improvements in symptoms. It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to monitor progress and adjust treatment as needed.
Q: Can PCOS be prevented?
A: There is no surefire way to prevent PCOS, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight can help reduce the risk of developing the condition or lessen the severity of symptoms.