PCOS: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

It is a hormonal disorder that affects approximately 27% of women in the reproductive age group. Women with PCOS may have infrequent, absent or prolonged menstrual cycle; or high levels of male hormones. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs. Currently, it is considered as one of the leading causes of infertility in women.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

Menstrual symptoms: the absence of menstruation, heavy menstruation, irregular menstruation, short and light menstruation, or spotting

Obesity, overweight, or weight gain

Skin symptoms: acne or oily skin

Also common are: infertility, dark patches of skin in folds, depression, inappropriate male features, loss of scalp hair, facial hair especially on the chin, sideburns, and chest

Is PCOS life-threatening?

PCOS in itself is not life-threatening although it affects the quality of life negatively if left unmanaged. It is frequently associated with insulin resistance, which in turn may lead to an increased risk of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. PCOS also increases a person’s susceptibility to uterine and endometrial cancers.

What causes PCOS?

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. It is believed that high levels of male hormones prevent the ovaries from producing female hormones and making eggs normally. Genes (PCOS runs in families), insulin resistance (up to 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance), and inflammation have all been linked to excess production of male hormones.

How is PCOS diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose PCOS if women have at least two of the three main symptoms — high levels of male hormones, irregular periods, and cysts in the ovaries. A pelvic exam, blood tests, and ultrasound can confirm the diagnosis. Blood samples are taken for a variety of hormones, cholesterol, triglyceride, glucose and insulin levels.

Is there an overall treatment for PCOS?

There can be an improvement in the severity of symptoms of PCOS but there is no complete treatment of this disorder available as of now. Weight loss definitely helps in restoring menstrual cycle to normal. Weight loss can also help improve hormonal imbalances. A diet high in low glycemic index foods, fiber, vegetable protein, fluids, fruits, vegetables and antioxidants can help in maintaining a normal weight. Regular sustained exercise and Insulin-lowering medications (prescribed by the physician) are helpful.

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Image by Rosa Elemil Martínez from Pixabay

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