Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS as is commonly known is a condition that causes an imbalance in female sex hormones. It is an endocrine system disorder and can lead to a variety of adverse symptoms that causes infertility/subfertility in women among other things.
According to an article from 2017, one in every 7 women in India has PCOS, and out of every 10 women diagnosed with PCOS, 6 of them are teenage girls. In such a situation knowing about this syndrome is a must.
A little background on what exactly happens in the body will help in drawing a clear picture. Each month, tiny fluid-filled cysts called follicles to develop on the surface of the ovary. A mature egg is produced from one such follicle and the ovary releases it. This is how it should happen. But, in women suffering from PCOS, there is a hormonal imbalance that may not let an egg fully develop and be released. This hampers with ovulation causing infertility. The hormonal imbalance could also increase the production of testosterone (male hormone) in women.
Causes for PCOS
While no exact causation for this syndrome has been determined, it is believed to be genetic. If your mother or sister have developed PCOS, chances are you could be at risk of developing it too.
It is also believed that excess of insulin by the body plays havoc with ovulation. Too much of insulin in the system will cause enough hormonal imbalance to produce excess testosterone.
Symptoms of PCOS
While not all women will have the same or all of the symptoms, these can occur
- The menstrual cycle is affected. The cycles are impacted wherein the periods are irregular in occurrences and flow (either too light or too heavy)
- With increased testosterone, there is abnormal hair growth on the face, chest, or back, as well as a propensity for male patterned baldness.
- Women may also experience depression or anxiety
- As discussed above, infertility is also one of the presenting symptoms.
- Weight management difficulties including weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
- Skin issues – such as acne, oily skin, skin tags, and dandruff
Effects on fertility
PCOS is known to impact ovulation which is a direct cause for infertility or sub-fertility. The follicles do not mature and hence ovulation does not occur in most women with PCOS.
Furthermore, due to unbalanced hormones, ovulation and menstruation can be irregular. Unpredictable menstrual cycles can also make it difficult to get pregnant.
Treatment for PCOS and infertility
There is no one cure for PCOS, it is managed symptomatically and if desired fertility can be improved with medication-ovulation inducing drugs. Treatment also varies on whether a woman wants to become pregnant or not.
Birth control pills are used to correct hormonal imbalances (only in case of a woman not trying to get pregnant). If blood sugar levels are off, then medication is prescribed for managing and maintaining healthy insulin levels. Usually, doctors also recommend watching weight by following a low glycaemic diet to bring down insulin levels.
PCOS has such varied impacts that it becomes imperative that when one is experiencing any of these symptoms, they should also reach out to a specialist. The diagnosis could be based on several factors. Tests may include blood tests to measure hormones or sugar levels, an ultrasound, or an exam with a detailed medical history.