Health Connect – August Edition 

Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS for short, is a common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age. About 10% of women in this age group have this condition, and up to 70% of cases remain undiagnosed.

What are the signs and symptoms of PCOS?

  1. Irregular or absence of menstrual period
  2. Symptoms of high male hormones: excess hair growth on body, male-pattern hair loss, decreased breast size etc.
  3. Acne, oily skin
  4. Metabolic syndrome: weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and increased insulin level, high cholesterol
  5. Infertility/ subfertility
  6. Slightly enlarged ovaries or cysts in the ovaries

What is the cause of PCOS?

The exact cause is unknown, but it is likely to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Some women with PCOS have several cysts in their ovaries. This is due to the eggs not being released every month, and the unreleased eggs in the ovaries form the cysts. Due to the irregular release of the eggs, menstrual periods are irregular, and women might experience difficulty with conception.

Women with PCOS may also produce more than normal levels of male hormones, which result in the features of excessive body hair, male-patterned hair loss etc.

How is PCOS diagnosed?

Your doctor will need to ask you about your medical history, and do a physical examination. Investigations like blood tests and ultrasound pelvis are required as well.

Why is it important to diagnose PCOS?

PCOS is associated with metabolic syndrome and endometrial cancer. Identification of PCOS will create the opportunity for your doctor to educate you on the long-term risks and monitor you accordingly.

Women with PCOS might also experience mood swings and depression, regular follow-up with a healthcare provider will improve pickup rates of such complications.

What is the treatment for PCOS?

There is no cure for PCOS. Treatment is targeted based on symptoms, and aim to reduce the effect of symptoms.

Lifestyle and dietary modifications
Regular exercise and weight management often help with regularization of menstrual periods.

Pharmacological management
Contraception pills might be used to regulate menstruation.
Subfertility or infertility can be managed with a specialist with either medication to induce ovulation, in vitro fertilization, or laparoscopic keyhole surgery
Metformin might sometimes be used to manage the insulin abnormalities associated with PCOS.