Understanding and dealing with PCOS
Almost one out of every ten women suffers from PCOS or Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Unfortunately most women are not even aware that they are the victims of this potentially risky condition brought about by a hormonal disorder. It is very vital for every woman to know that PCOS is a serious risk and it is essential to be aware of its multiple symptoms so as to diagnose it well in time and start curative measures.
What exactly is PCOS?
The reproductive organ of the female body is known as the ovary. This is where the eggs are produced. The eggs in the ovary are protected by tiny fluid filled sacs known as follicles or cysts. As the egg grows the fluid contained in the cyst also increases such that when the egg matures the cyst ruptures and the egg is released into the fallopian tube which will carry the egg to the uterus or the womb for fertilization. This entire process is called ovulation.
In a woman suffering from PCOS, the ovary is not able to produce the quantity of necessary hormones required to mature the egg. In this case, though the quantity of the fluid in the cyst continues to rise, the egg does not mature in proportion. The cyst thus feels no need to rupture and release the egg into the fallopian tube. Some unruptured fluid filled cysts continue to exist in the ovary. When more than one such cyst lines the ovary, the condition is termed ‘poly’ cystic.
When this happens, the female body reduces its production of progesterone which otherwise regulates the menstrual cycle. This causes irregular bleeding and pelvic aches. Also, on the other hand the small quantities of androgen, which is a male hormone, get produced more often, reducing the chances of further ovulation of the eggs.
Signs and symptoms of PCOS
How do you know whether you are suffering from PCOS? Watch out for the following symptoms. If at any given point you experience more than three of the symptoms consult your doctor immediately.
- Irregular bleeding and menstrual cycles
- Prolonged pain in the pelvic region
- Unexplained weight gain and difficulty in shedding the extra weight
- Increase in growth of facial hair or hair on the chest etc. This condition is also known as Hirsutism
- Baldness or thinning of hair
- Dark brown patches on neck, arm, breasts or thighs
- Intensive feelings of anxiety or depression
- Sleep apnea or short bouts of breathlessness when asleep
What causes PCOS?
Current studies link Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Insulin Resistance. A report published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2000 claims that up to 40 percent of women with PCOS have either impaired glucose tolerance or Type 2 Diabetes by the age 40. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to digest carbohydrates. Carbohydrates get converted into sugar. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin gets released. Insulin resistance is when the cells don’t open the “door” to the insulin. The pancreas then releases more insulin to regulate the sugar in the blood.
Excess insulin affects the ovaries by stimulating them to produce large amounts of testosterone (a male hormone), which contributes to infertility.
Can PCOS be treated?
The fist step to dealing with PCOS is to adjust your diet. It is essential to cut out all sugar including artificial sweeteners. It makes no difference if it is so called “healthy sugar” such as honey or fruit juice, they all affect your insulin levels.
All refined carbohydrates should be avoided. These include all grains, such as wheat, rice, flours, etc and starches such as corn starch, potato starch.
Unless you are willing to change your diet, you will not be able to overcome PCOS and in turn the likelihood of developing diabetes is very high.
Don’t be ignorant about PCOS. It is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. Watch out for the signs and act upon it immediately.