PCOS / Hormonal Imbalance
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a common hormonal disorder that affects the majority of women in their reproductive health.
In this condition, a woman’s body starts to produce too many androgens as compared to estrogens. This hormonal imbalance can lead to a wide variety of symptoms that can affect a woman’s overall health ad wellbeing.
Some of the common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular Menstruation: One may either miss periods or not have periods at all or may also experience heavy bleeding during periods.
- Abnormal Hair Growth: Women with PCOS may experience excessive facial hair growth or heavy hair growth on other parts of the body.
- Obesity: Almost 80% of women with PCOS struggle with obesity and face difficulty in maintaining a healthy weight.
- Acne: PCOS can cause acne, particularly on the face, chest, and back, which may persist into adulthood and prove challenging to treat.
- Ovarian Cysts: Ultrasound scans may reveal enlarged ovaries with multiple follicles or egg sac cysts.
- Skin Tags: Small flaps of extra skin, known as skin tags, may develop in areas like the neck and armpits.
- Thinning Hair: Hair loss or bald patches may occur in individuals with PCOS.
- Infertility: PCOS can lead to infertility in women, which is a result of irregular or infrequent ovulation, thus, making it difficult for them to conceive.
There’s no such exact cause of PCOS. But there are a number of factors that contribute to the development of PCOS in women:
- Insulin Resistance: PCOS patients have insulin resistance, which clears that insulin doesn’t respond to the active cells in their body. Hence, the body starts to produce more amounts of insulin, which increases the amount of insulin in the bloodstream.
- Inflammation: Women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation, which can trigger the ovaries to produce more androgens.
- Heredity: A family history of PCOS increases the likelihood of developing the condition. Some researchers have discovered that certain genes might contribute towards PCOS, thus, making some women more likely to develop this syndrome.
- High Levels of Androgens: Women with PCOS tend to produce high amounts of androgens which can start to interfere with the menstrual cycle. This can result in the development of small cysts in ovaries.
PCOS can lead to various complications if left untreated. These complications can impact both reproductive health and overall well-being.
Some potential complications of PCOS include:
- Infertility: PCOS is a definite cause of infertility. The hormonal imbalances and irregular menstrual cycles associated with the condition can result in difficulty conceiving.
- Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome includes high BP, high blood sugar levels, extra body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels, which are more likely to affect women with PCOS.
- Type 2 Diabetes: PCOS includes resistance to insulin, which raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Cardiovascular Disease: Women with PCOS can develop cardiovascular diseases due to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and elevated cholesterol levels.
- Pregnancy Complications: Women, when pregnant, run a higher risk of developing complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm birth, and miscarriage due to PCOS.
- Depression & Anxiety: PCOS's physical signs and hormonal imbalances can cause mood disorders like anxiety and despair.
Healthcare professionals typically follow a step-by-step diagnosis to arrive at a result, which includes:
- Medical History & Physical Examination: The doctor will undergo the medical history of the patient, discussing the symptoms, menstrual cycle, hereditary and related conditions. Additionally, a physical examination will be conducted which involves looking for the symptoms of PCOS such as excessive hair growth, obesity, and more.
- Blood Tests: Blood tests help the doctor evaluate the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS. Blood tests can also check for insulin resistance, glucose levels, and cholesterol levels to identify any related health concerns.
- Pelvic Ultrasound: Pelvic ultrasounds helps doctors to know if there’s a presence of follicles in the ovaries, which is a common sign of PCOS. The ultrasound also helps assess the thickness of the uterine lining.
Treatment for PCOS majorly focuses on improving the symptoms and addressing the complications associated with this condition. As PCOS symptoms and severity can vary between individuals, treatment plans are personalized to meet each person's specific needs.
Here are some common treatment approaches for PCOS:
Depending on the symptoms and indicators of the underlying medical problem, PCOS drugs are provided.
- Hormonal Birth Control: Oral contraceptives may be prescribed to assist control the menstrual cycle, lower testosterone production, and get rid of signs like acne.
- Anti-Androgen Medications: Drugs like spironolactone can help reduce excess hair growth and acne by blocking the effects of androgens.
- Insulin-Sensitizing Drugs: Metformin is an example of a medication that can help insulin resistance, control blood sugar levels, and possibly return some PCOS patients' ovulation to normal.
- Clomiphene: Women with PCOS who are attempting to get pregnant might use this reproductive medication to trigger ovulation.
- Fertility Treatments
In the event that fertility issues persist despite treatment, the use of assisted reproductive technologies such as IUI or IVF may be investigated.
In some cases, laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) may be recommended for women with PCOS who have not responded to medications and are experiencing fertility issues. However, LOD is typically considered a last-resort treatment option.
Because there’s no exact cause for PCOS, thus you can’t find any definitive way of preventing it. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle and focusing on early intervention can help manage symptoms and reduce the risk of associated complications.
People with PCOS must manage their weight because being overweight can make hormone abnormalities and insulin resistance worse. Additionally, they must consider consuming a balanced diet emphasizing more whole foods, healthy fats, proteins, green leafy vegetables, and fruits.