Here's How To Recognize The Signs Of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman's ovaries work. PCOS has three main features: irregular periods – which means your ovaries do not regularly release eggs; excess androgen – high levels of "male hormones" in your body, which may cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair; polycystic ovaries – your ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs that surround the eggs. But despite the name, you do not actually have cysts if you have PCOS). If you have at least 2 of these features, your doctor may diagnose you with PCOS.
What Are The Symptoms Of PCOS?
Some women start seeing symptoms around the time of their first period. Others only discover they have PCOS after they’ve gained a lot of weight or they’ve had trouble getting pregnant. If you experience symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), they'll usually become apparent in your late teens or early 20s. Not all women with PCOS will have all of the symptoms, and each symptom can vary from mild to severe. Some women only experience menstrual problems or are unable to conceive, or both.
Common symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular periods. A lack of ovulation prevents the uterine lining from shedding every month. Some women with PCOS get fewer than eight periods a year
- Heavy bleeding. The uterine lining builds up for a longer period of time, so the periods you do get can be heavier than normal.
- Hair growth. More than 70 percent of women with this condition grow hair on their face and body — including on their back, belly, and chest. Excess hair growth is called hirsutism.
- Acne. Male hormones can make the skin oilier than usual and cause breakouts on areas like the face, chest, and upper back.
- Weight gain. Up to 80 percent of women with PCOS are overweight or obese.
- Male-pattern baldness. Hair on the scalp gets thinner and fall out.
- Darkening of the skin. Dark patches of skin can form in body creases like those on the neck, in the groin, and under the breasts.
- Headaches. Hormone changes can trigger headaches in some women.
How Does PCOS Affect Your Lifestyle?
PCOS is one of the most leading causes of female infertility. Many women find out that they have PCOS when they're trying to get pregnant without success. During each menstrual cycle, your ovaries release an egg (ovum) into your uterus (womb). This process is called ovulation and usually occurs once a month. But women with PCOS often fail to ovulate or ovulate infrequently, which means they have irregular or absent periods and find it difficult to get pregnant.
Up to 80 percent of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Both obesity and PCOS increase your risk for high blood sugar, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Together, these factors are called metabolic syndrome, and they increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
This condition causes repeated pauses in breathing during the night, which interrupt sleep. Sleep apnea is more common in women who are overweight — especially if they also have PCOS. The risk for sleep apnea is 5 to 10 times higher in obese women with PCOS than in those without PCOS.
During ovulation, the uterine lining sheds. If you don’t ovulate every month, the lining can build up. A thickened uterine lining can increase your risk for endometrial cancer.
Both hormonal changes and symptoms like unwanted hair growth can negatively affect your emotions. Many with PCOS end up experiencing depression and anxiety.
Diet and lifestyle tips to treat PCOS
Treatment for PCOS usually starts with lifestyle changes like weight loss, diet, and exercise.
Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help regulate your menstrual cycle and improve PCOS symptoms. Weight loss can also improve cholesterol levels, lower insulin, and reduce heart disease and diabetes risks. Any diet that helps you lose weight can help your condition. However, some diets may have advantages over others.
Studies have found that low-carbohydrate diets are effective for both weight loss and lowering insulin levels. A low glycemic index (low-GI) diet that gets most carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps regulate the menstrual cycle better than a regular weight loss diet,
Also, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least three days a week can help women with PCOS lose weight. Losing weight with exercise also improves ovulation and insulin levels.
Exercise is even more beneficial when combined with a healthy diet. Diet plus exercise helps you lose more weight than either intervention alone, and it lowers your risks for diabetes and heart disease.
Also read: What is IVF: everything you need to know