When we hear the term “lifestyle diseases”, we tend to think about type 2 diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, even cancer and dementia. But rarely do we think of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). But why so? Probably, because most of us attribute PCOS to our genes, or because most of us are oblivious to the complications that can arise due to PCOS.
On an average PCOS affects 1 in every 10 women worldwide and if left untreated poses serious chronic health risks. There is no denying the fact that genes from both maternal and paternal pools play a role in PCOS. But genetics is not the only cause. PCOS can stem from a sedentary lifestyle coupled with a nutritionally imbalanced diet.
What is PCOS?
PCOS or Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition in which multiple cysts form inside the ovaries.
Our body secretes female hormones like luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) that regulate the monthly menstrual cycle. Ovaries contain many immature eggs inside the fluid-filled sacs called follicles.
FSH and LH help to release the most mature egg through a process called ovulation. This free egg awaits fertilization in the fallopian tube for about 12 – 24 hours and is ejected through menstruation, in case the fertilization does not occur. The remaining immature follicles degenerate.
In the case of PCOS, an abnormally high amount of LH is released that disrupts the normal menstrual cycle. As a result, some of the immature follicles end up as cysts in the ovaries, instead of getting dissolved.
In addition, blood insulin levels could also stay elevated. High insulin together with high LH, can result in excess production of a male hormone called testosterone. Abnormally high levels of testosterone prevent ovulation and lead to infertility. Testosterone is also responsible for causing many of the male pattern physical features associated with PCOS.
Signs and Symptoms of PCOS
Because of hormonal imbalance, PCOS patients show all or a few of the following symptoms –
1. Menstrual cycle disruption with irregular or no periods
The healthy range for the menstrual cycle varies anywhere between 21 to 28 days. If the cycle is completed earlier than 21 days or later than 28 days, then a doctor’s visit would be appropriate.
2. Weight gain
If you notice unexplained weight gain, with no thyroid malfunction, then keep observing for other signs that may indicate PCOS.
If you have been trying to conceive, but haven’t been able to, even after a substantial time (1 year for women under 35 years of age and 6 months for women above 35 years), please visit a gynaecologist.
4. Hirsutism (excessive hair growth)
Due to excess male hormone production, women with PCOS may develop hair on the face, side of jaws, or abdomen.
5. Hair fall
The surge of male hormones in PCOS may also lead to excess hair fall and male pattern baldness in women.
6. Fatigue and Nausea
Women may experience fatigue even after small tasks and may find it difficult to concentrate on their work. If you feel drained out or anxious often, it could be due to PCOS.
7. Acne and excess sebum production
Excess testosterone may also lead to excessive sweating, and the resultant oily skin may lead to sudden outbursts of painful acne mostly on the face and sides of the jaw.
Although some of the major symptoms are listed here, they do vary from person to person.
Types of PCOS
Based on the primary cause, PCOS can be classified into five broad types:
1. Insulin Resistance linked PCOS
This is the leading cause of PCOS in women today. An unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, mental stress, etc., over time, lead to the development of a condition called insulin resistance and eventually PCOS.
2. Pill induced PCOS
The second most common cause of PCOS is the consumption of certain birth control pills. These pills can curb ovulation leading to the formation of cysts.
3. Inflammatory PCOS
Inflammation-induced by stress, excess weight, toxins in the environment, and inflammation-inducing food can also lead to PCOS. Headaches, skin allergies, V