PCOS: Everything You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by G. Liakeas, MD FACT CHECKED

PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a hormonal condition that affects women of childbearing age.

It is characterized by the presence of enlarged ovaries with small, cystic follicles.

PCOS is a complex condition with a wide range of symptoms, including irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, acne, and hirsutism.

It is a leading cause of infertility and can also increase the risk of certain conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, endometrial cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Consult a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment if you suspect that you may have PCOS. Keep reading to learn more about this condition, including its symptoms, causes, and treatment options.


Effects Of PCOS On The Body

The following are the effects of PCOS on the body-

  • Infertility

    The hormone androgen, which the ovaries overproduce, causes PCOS. This excess of androgen interferes with the normal development and release of eggs from the ovaries.

    This can lead to ovulation problems, which can in turn cause fertility problems.

    PCOS is also a leading cause of irregular periods. Women with PCOS often have menstrual cycles that are longer than normal, and they may skip periods altogether.

    It may be challenging to get pregnant as a result.

  • Metabolic Syndrome

    PCOS can also cause metabolic syndrome, a condition that includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

    Metabolic syndrome is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. In women with PCOS, the risk for metabolic syndrome is increased.

    PCOS is thought to cause metabolic syndrome by affecting the way the body produces and uses insulin.

    The hormone insulin aids in the body’s utilization of glucose (sugar) as an energy source.

    When the body becomes resistant to insulin, blood sugar levels can rise, and this can lead to the health problems seen in metabolic syndrome.

  • Sleep Apnea

    PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can cause sleep apnea.

    In women with PCOS, the ovaries produce too much testosterone, which can lead to enlargement of the clitoris, development of male-pattern baldness, and growth of facial and body hair.

    Sleep apnea is a problem in which a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep.

    It can be caused by a number of things, including obesity, smoking, and nasal congestion. However, in women with PCOS, sleep apnea is often caused by hormonal imbalances.

  • Endometrial Cancer

    PCOS is a condition that can cause enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges. PCOS can also cause the lining of the uterus to thicken. This increased thickness can lead to endometrial cancer.

    While PCOS itself is not cancer, it is a risk factor for endometrial cancer. Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing endometrial cancer than women without PCOS.

    The risk is highest in women who have PCOS and are obese.

    PCOS might increase the risk of endometrial cancer. The reason is that PCOS can cause high levels of insulin in the body.

    A hormone called insulin aids in the body’s utilization of glucose (sugar) as an energy source. High levels of insulin can promote the growth of the lining of the uterus.

  • Depression

    Depression is a common symptom of PCOS, affecting up to 70% of women with the condition.

    For one, PCOS can cause hormonal imbalances that can lead to changes in brain chemistry and neurotransmitter levels.

    These changes can cause symptoms of depression, such as low mood, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

    Additionally, PCOS can lead to weight gain, which can also contribute to depression.

    PCOS can also have a negative impact on a woman’s self-esteem and body image, which can lead to feelings of depression and low self-worth.

    Moreover, excessive stress from dealing with PCOS can also contribute to the development of depression.

How PCOS Is Diagnosed

PCOS is often diagnosed by checking for the presence of certain symptoms and signs. A woman with PCOS may have two of the following three symptoms:

  • Irregular or no periods
  • Excess androgen (male hormone) levels
  • Polycystic (multiple cysts) ovaries

Your doctor may also recommend checking your insulin levels and doing a pelvic ultrasound to look for signs of PCOS.

If you have PCOS, you may be able to manage your symptoms with lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a healthy diet. In some cases, medication may also be necessary.

Tips For Treating PCOS With Food And Lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle changes are often recommended as the first line of treatment for PCOS.

Making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can often help to control the symptoms of PCOS and improve your overall health.

To get started, consider the following advice-

  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet that is high in fiber and low in sugar can help to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation.

    At the same time, when you are on your period, you need to make sure that you are eating right so that you may be able to improve your chances of having regular periods.

  • Get regular exercise: Exercise can help to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate hormone levels.

  • Reduce stress: Stress can worsen the symptoms of PCOS, so it is important to find ways to lower your stress level.

Common Medical Treatments

The following are the common medical treatments-

  • Birth Control

    Birth control can be an effective way to manage the symptoms. Birth control pills can help to regulate hormones and reduce the symptoms of PCOS.

    The most common type of birth control pill contains a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin.

    These pills work by preventing ovulation and thinning the lining of the uterus. This can help to reduce the development of ovarian cysts and make periods more regular.

  • Metformin

    Metformin is a medication that is usually prescribed to women with PCOS. The drug helps to lower insulin levels in the body, which can in turn help to regulate hormone levels and sustain a healthy weight.

    Metformin can also help to increase fertility in women with PCOS by improving egg quality and ovarian function.

  • Clomiphene

    Clomiphene (Clomid) is a common fertility medication that is used to help regulate ovulation in women with PCOS.

    Clomiphene works by stimulating the release of eggs from the ovaries, and can often be successful in treating PCOS and helping women to conceive.

    Clomiphene is usually taken for 5 days, starting on days 3, 5, or 7 of the menstrual cycle.

    The medication is taken orally, and most women will ovulate within 7-10 days after taking the last dose.

    In order to increase the chances of ovulation, clomiphene is often used in combination with other medications, such as metformin.

  • Surgery

    PCOS is usually treated with a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. In some cases, surgery may also be an option.

    If lifestyle changes and medication don’t help, or if you have severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery.

    The two types of surgery used to treat PCOS are laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) and ovarian cystectomy.

    LOD is a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat to destroy the tissue that is causing the ovaries to produce too many hormones.

    This procedure can help to restore regular ovulation and improve fertility.

    An ovarian cystectomy is a surgical procedure to remove one or both ovaries. This may be done for a variety of reasons, including cancer, endometriosis, or fibroids.

When To Visit The Doctor

If you have PCOS, it is important to see a doctor regularly. PCOS can often be managed with lifestyle changes, but in some cases, medication may be necessary.

If you are not sure whether you have PCOS, see your doctor for a diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, see your doctor every six to twelve months for a checkup.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce your risk of these complications.

Final Remark

In conclusion, PCOS is a complex condition that can cause a variety of symptoms. With proper diet and lifestyle change, it could be effectively managed. 

While there is no cure, treatments are available to help manage the symptoms. Speak to your doctor if you believe you may have PCOS.

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