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What causes PCOS, and can you treat it? A doctor's guide

November 9, 2020. 11 mins read

PCOS is a very common terminology used these days, as far as I can say someone you know would be definitely suffering from the condition. So, what is this condition and why is it so common? In this article, we’ll try to understand the causes and treatments for PCOS. But before we go, let us first know a little about this condition:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a very common hormonal disorder affecting women of reproductive age. In this condition, the ovaries develop numerous follicles (collections of fluid) and fail to release eggs regularly. Women suffering from PCOS may experience prolonged or infrequent menstrual periods and may have excess androgen (male hormone) in the body.

But how would you know that you may be suffering from PCOS?

A woman suffering from PCOS exhibits or experiences some specific symptoms, some of which have been mentioned below: 

  • Irregular Menstrual Cycle: Females suffering from PCOS generally experience irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles. If you bleed for less than nine cycles in a year, and have heavy menstrual bleeding with more than 35 days gap in every cycle, the doctor must be immediately consulted.
  • Excess Androgen: Androgen is a male hormone whose excess may result in physical signs such as severe body and facial hair, occasionally severe acne, and male-pattern baldness. Women suffering from PCOS may have facial hair due to high androgen levels in the body.
  • Polycystic Ovaries: Polycystic ovaries contain follicles that surround the eggs, and as a result, the ovaries might fail to function properly. Polycystic ovaries are diagnosed via Ultrasonography.

If you are suffering from any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it's time for you to visit your doctor

Another major thing that we must address here is the difference between PCOS and PCOD because many people often consider PCOS and PCOD  synonymous to each other.

Let’s make it clear!

PCOS and PCOD are two different conditions with overlapping symptoms and causes. PCOS is a disorder of the endocrine system while PCOD (Polycystic ovary disorder) is a medical condition developed by the imbalance of hormones. PCOS is more severe and much more challenging to treat.

If not treated on time, PCOS may lead to complications such as:

  • Infertility
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Uterine Bleeding
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Premature Birth or Miscarriage
  • Depression, Anxiety, and Eating Disorders
  • Liver Inflammation (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis)

Causes of PCOS

Now that you are aware what PCOS is and how it can affect your health, it is equally important to know the underlying causes. PCOS is a lifestyle disorder that may have been gradually developed or carried genetically. Here are all the causes that you must know:

  • Hormonal Imbalance: PCOS leads to imbalance of hormones in the body which further leads to a rise in blood sugar levels. This imbalance of hormones is also responsible for the rise in androgen levels in a female’s body. Also, the imbalanced hormones make the process of ovulation difficult, thereby creating complications in pregnancy.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Studies have revealed that PCOS may be carried from generation to generation via the gene pool. Certain genes have also been linked to PCOS.
  • Inflammation in the Body: Females suffering from PCOS often have increased levels of inflammation in their bodies. Being overweight may also contribute to increased inflammation. This low-grade inflammation in the body usually regulates polycystic ovaries to produce the male hormones, androgen.

Can PCOS be completely cured?

The answer is yes! The right type of diagnosis and treatment can help to cure PCOS.

When you visit a doctor, he/she may start by discussing your medical history and enquiring about the menstrual cycle or weight changes. A physical exam may also be carried out to check for signs of excess growth, acne, and other signs associated with the onset of PCOS.

After carefully assessing the symptoms, the doctor might recommend you to undergo the following diagnostic procedures:

Pelvic Exam: The doctor may manually or visually inspect the reproductive organs for growths and abnormalities. An imaging test such as USG (Ultrasonography) of the abdomen may also be recommended for complete clarity.

Blood Tests: Blood tests may be prescribed to measure hormone levels as a PCOS problem solution.

When it comes to treatment, no one way can be considered as a completed PCOS solution. However, there are ways in which the condition can be managed and prevented from progressing. You may be asked to do the following:-

  • Make Lifestyle Changes: You may be asked to lose weight and maintain a low-calorie diet combined with moderate exercise. Even a slight reduction in weight can significantly improve the condition. Losing weight may also increase the effectiveness of medicines prescribed as a PCOS solution.
  • Take Medication: Birth control pills may be prescribed to regulate the menstrual cycle. These pills contain estrogen and progestin that decrease the production of androgen and regulate estrogen levels in the body. Regulation of hormones lowers the risk of abnormal bleeding and endometrial cancer and is an effective PCOS problem solution.

To help you ovulate properly, the doctor may prescribe medicines such as Clomiphene, Letrozole, Metformin, Gonadotropins, etc. To reduce excess hair growth, the doctor may recommend birth control pills, spironolactone, eflornithine, etc.

 

Should you be worrying about PCOS?

Nope, there’s nothing to worry about PCOS and PCOD can interfere with a woman's menstrual cycles and complicate pregnancy. High levels of male hormones also cause additional symptoms such as the proliferation of facial and body hair. Lifestyle therapies are the first treatments recommended for PCOS by the doctors and usually perform well. Loss of weight will reduce the effects of PCOS and increase the likelihood of conceiving. Diet and aerobic workouts are two popular forms of weight reduction. When dietary changes don't work, medicines are an option. Birth control pills and metformin should allow normalized menstrual periods and alleviate the effects of PCOS.

There is no one solution to the PCOS problem, but with the right diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle changes, the condition can be easily managed and cured.

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