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What is PCOS?

What is PCOS?
Akanksha Nigam

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman's hormone levels. In PCOS, the ovaries produce too many male hormones.which causes the female body to skip the menstrual cycle and creates issues with fertility.  If you have PCOS, your ovaries overproduce male hormones called androgens. Due to improper ovulation, many small sacs of fluid develop on the outer edge of the ovaries. These small sacs are called cysts. These cysts contain immature eggs which are not released on time, leading to irregular periods.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Symptoms

  • Irregular Periods: The cysts do not release eggs at regular intervals which leads to an irregular menstrual cycle.
  • Excess Facial & Body Hair: High levels of the male hormone androgen are responsible for the excess growth of facial and body hair.
  • Acne: PCOS causes acne on the back, chest, and face.
  • Obesity: Up to 80% of women suffering from PCOS are overweight.
  • Skin Darkening: Dark patches of skin are often found on the neck, armpits, and under the breasts.
  • Heavy Bleeding: Because of the irregularity of periods, the uterine lining builds up for a longer time, leading to heavy bleeding during periods.
  • Hair Thinning: PCOS can also cause hair thinning and hair loss

PCOS Causes

The exact cause is not known, but there are some known factors which play a role in PCOS:

  • High levels of Androgens: High androgen levels are responsible for preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs causing irregular menstrual cycles. Due to the irregularity of periods, small sacs, or cysts, form on the ovaries. High androgen also causes acne and excess hair growth in women.
  • Insulin resistance: The pancreas produces insulin which processes sugar from food to produce energy. If the cells cannot use this insulin, the body's demand for insulin and blood sugar levels go up—too much insulin results in the body producing androgens.
  • Low-grade inflammation: In the event of an injury or infection, the white blood cells are called into action and produce low-grade inflammation. Those suffering from PCOS have long-term, low-grade inflammation, which causes the polycystic ovaries to produce androgens. These androgens prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs.
  • Genetics: Research suggests that genetics also play a role in developing PCOS.

Effects of PCOS on The Body

  • Infertility: High levels of androgens disrupt the timely release of eggs. In the absence of proper ovulation and pregnancy becomes challenging.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: Most women suffering from PCOS are overweight or obese. Obesity, accompanied by PCOS, increases the risk of high blood sugar and high blood pressure, decreases the levels of good cholesterol and increases the levels of bad cholesterol. This increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. These factors collectively are called metabolic syndrome.
  • Sleep Apnea: Women who are obese and suffer from PCOS are at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea. This risk is 5-10 times higher compared to women who do not have PCOS.
  • Endometrial Cancer: As the ovulation is irregular, the uterus lining continues to build and does not shed. This build-up often leads to endometrial cancer.
  • Depression: Hormonal changes, excess facial growth, and fertility challenges negatively affect a woman’s mental state.

Treatment for PCOS

Up to 40%  of women are obese, and there is a direct link between obesity and PCOS. Therefore, the primary focus is making lifestyle changes to improve the condition. The first and foremost change one should make is to start exercising and reduce weight. Losing weight could help in regulating the menstrual cycle. It also helps improve cholesterol and insulin levels and reduces the chances of heart disease and diabetes.

Consuming a healthy diet also helps with weight loss. A diet that helps to reduce calorie consumption and lowers insulin levels is beneficial for those suffering from PCOS. A low glycemic index diet also helps to regulate periods. 

Exercise combined with a healthy diet can help you reap the benefits effectively when treating PCOS.

There are also certain medical treatments that can help with PCOS:

  1. Hormonal Birth Control: Birth control pills, patches, shots, etc., can regulate the menstrual cycle and help control acne and excess hair growth.
  2. Insulin-Sensitizing Medicine: Helps the body process insulin. Once it is managed, you may see improvement in PCOS symptoms.
  3. Medication to block Androgens: Helps to stop androgen production and effects.
  4. Surgery: Surgical procedures to remove androgen-producing tissues from the ovary trigger ovulation and help correct PCOS.
 

PCOS vs. Endometriosis

In endometriosis, tissue similar to the tissue inside the uterus start to form on the outer lining and other parts of the pelvic area. During menstruation, this tissue breaks down but does not exit the body and causes severe pain. You can read more about endometriosis in the article What is Endometriosis?

In PCOS, there is no timely release of eggs which causes irregular periods and ovulation. Because of the excess male hormones, women grow excess facial and body hair.

Both conditions make it difficult to become pregnant.

PCOS is a common reason for the difficulty in pregnancy and affects a woman physically, mentally, and emotionally. While there are non-medical treatments such as exercising and lifestyle changes to reduce weight, if the symptoms persist or become unbearable, it is advisable to contact a healthcare provider. If you have PCOS, plan regular doctor visits and check for diabetes and heart diseases.

At HPFY, we host a wide range of products for women’s health, such as maternity products and personal care, from many popular brands.

 

Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.


HPFY Akanksha Nigam

Akanksha Nigam

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Akanksha Nigam has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2021. With a Masters Degree in Finance, she began her Marketing career in the banking industry. However, her interest in human ...

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