Polycystic Ovary Syndrome(PCOS)-Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a medical condition due to hormonal imbalance during a female’s reproductive years. During the condition, one of the female reproductive organs, the ovary(the organ that produces and stores eggs) starts producing an excess amount of androgens, male sex hormones which are already present in women but in a limited quantity. This imbalance results in infertility, excess hair growth, acne, and improper menstrual cycle. If one has PCOS, she may not have periods at regular intervals or may have periods that last for long.

What Is Ovary?

The ovary is one of the organs of the female reproductive system. They are small, oval-shaped glands located on both sides of your uterus. The organ produces and stores eggs(the ovum) and generates hormones that control your menstrual cycle and fertility. During the ovulation phase, either of the two ovaries releases an egg. The released egg travels down to the uterus through a fallopian tube where it can be fertilized by a sperm, hence pregnancy can take place.

What Is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is the full form of PCOS. The term ‘Polycystic’ describes the creation of small cysts(sacs filled with fluid) on the ovaries in a huge amount. When the ovary starts producing required hormones in an abnormal quantity causing enlarged ovaries with cysts, this medical condition is called PCOS. The development of cysts is not consistent for every female. Some may develop cysts and some do not have cysts.

What Are The Main Causes Of PCOS?

The exact cause of PCOS is still unknown. Early PCOS diagnosis, treatment, and weight loss lower the risk of long-term complications. Various factors can be observed to identify the cause. These are :

  • Insulin resistance: Insulin is an essential hormone our body cells require to turn food into energy and control blood sugar levels. When the cells resist consuming insulin, then the blood sugar level of the body increases, and the body starts producing male hormone androgen in a large quantity which can troublesome the process of ovulation(when eggs are released from the ovary). The accumulation of immature follicles can lead to PCOS.
  • Hereditary issues: Various studies have shown heredity is a major cause of PCOS. It is common among sisters or mother and daughter to have PCOS. A family history of PCOS can also be a major cause.
  • Excessive Androgen:  The polycystic ovaries can produce a high level of androgen which can lead to a disturbed and interfere ovulation which means eggs will not be released normally regularly and hence can be a major reason for PCOS. Excessive androgen can also result in androgen.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of PCOS?

PCOS women can observe the mentioned symptoms in their routine. Here are the symptoms:

  1. Missed Periods/Irregular Periods/Inadequate Periods/Heavy Bleeding.
  2. Excess body hair growth.
  3. Abdominal weight gain(Weight gain especially around the belly/abdomen).
  4. Male-pattern baldness.
  5. Polycystic ovaries.
  6. Infertility.
  7. Small pieces of excess skin around the neck or armpits are commonly known as skin tags.
  8. Excessive androgen level.

Which Hormones Are Responsible For PCOS?

The hormonal imbalance at a reproductive age of a female is one of the major reasons for PCOS severely affects the menstrual cycle and disturbs ovulation. A balanced level of hormones is essential for the health of the female reproductive system. The hormones that play a crucial role are:

  1. Insulin
  2. Estrogen
  3. Androgens
  4. Progesterone
  5. Luteinizing hormone (LH)
  6. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

What Are The Complications Of PCOS?

Some major complications of PCOS are:

  1. Infertility.
  2. Hypertension.
  3. Gestational diabetes.
  4. Miscarriage or premature birth.
  5. Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
  6. Depression, anxiety, and dietary issues.
  7. Inflammation of the liver caused by fat around it.
  8. Malignant growth of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer).
  9. Unnecessary weight gain commonly occurs with PCOS and can worsen complications of the disorder.
  10. Metabolic disorder — a bunch of health issues including hypertension, high blood sugar, and undesirable cholesterol rise or triglyceride levels.

How Is PCOS Diagnosed?

Depending upon her symptoms and other medical conditions, there are many ways to diagnose PCOS in a female. Your doctor may ask you about your menstrual cycle and weight changes. He/she may diagnose PCOS with a physical examination of checking excessive hair growth, acne, insulin resistance, and hirsutism(excess male pattern hair growth). etc.

Based on the condition, your healthcare provider might recommend certain tests to diagnose PCOS.

  • Diagnosing PCOS with Clinical Pelvic Examination: The doctor can check the reproductive organs for abnormal growth, and masses.
  • Diagnosing PCOS with Ultrasound: The transvaginal ultrasound is one of the top recommended PCOS tests which is helpful in proper diagnosis as by using the wand-like device(transducer), the ultrasound expert will be able to check the thickness of the uterine lining and appearance of the ovaries whether they are polycystic or not. A polycystic ovary is covered with numerous small cystic structures.
  • Diagnosing PCOS with Blood Tests: Blood tests are another way to diagnose PCOS and identify the reason for the same. The blood tests may include testing for hormonal levels, glucose tolerance, thyroid level, cholesterol level, etc.

Some Testing For Patients Suspected Of Having PCOS:

  • Prolactin
  • LH, FSH, Estradiol
  • Serum Testosterone
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, TSH
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, DHEAS
  • 17-OH progesterone, 17 hydroxyprogesterone, 17 OHP

What Are The Best Treatments For PCOS?

Which PCOS treatment is suitable for you is depend on your medical history, current symptoms, and other health conditions. The second factor to decide the treatment plan is whether you are married and want to get pregnant. The treatment can be a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.

PCOS Treatment For Unmarried:

  • Improving Hormonal Imbalance: treating hormonal imbalance with the combination of birth control pills that contain estrogen and progestin helps decrease androgen (male hormone) in a female and regulate irregular periods. It also lowers the chances of endometrial cancer and reduces acne and hair growth.
  • Insulin-sensitizing Medicine: If you are diagnosed with high sugar, then your doctor may suggest some insulin-sensitizing medicine like metformin. Once insulin is under control, you may observe an improvement in the menstrual cycle
  • Lifestyle Changes: Eating a diet that is full of nutrients and maintaining a standard body weight that is healthy for you can have a positive impact on insulin levels

If You Have PCOS, Can You Get Pregnant?

The answer to this question will be yes. It might be time-consuming based on your health and condition. Here is the treatment for PCOS women those who plan to become pregnant:

  • Medicine To Help You Ovulate: The beginning of a successful pregnancy depends on healthy ovulation. Your doctor may suggest some medicines to let you ovulate. Some medicines are to be taken orally, and some are to be injected.
  • Surgical Procedure: Your doctor may suggest you go through surgery to remove the tissues from ovaries that produce androgen hormones. Nowadays, medicines are more effective, and surgeries are rarely prescribed in critical cases.
  • IVF(In Vitro Fertilization): In some cases, when the medicines are not effective, then your doctor suggests you go for IVF during which your egg will be fertilized with your partner’s sperm in the laboratory under proper provision. After the process, the fertilized egg will be transferred to your uterus.

What Diet Should Be Followed By PCOS Patients?

Diet plays a vital role in everyone’s life, providing proper nutrients to our body to help it regulate its core functions. For PCOS Patients, it is more important to keep an eye on what they eat as it has often been observed that PCOS Patients have a higher level of insulin than the normal range. PCOS can also cause insulin resistance which means your body is not utilizing the amount of insulin you produce effectively resulting in an increased body mass index(BMI). This resistance can make it challenging to lose weight.

These Types Of Foods Should Be Added In Your Diet

There is no standard diet to be followed by PCOS patients, but various approaches have benefited people with this condition.

High Fiber Foods

You must include high-fiber foods in your daily diet as it slows down the digestion and effect of sugar in the blood.

Top 10 Fiber-Rich Foods are:
  1. Broccoli 
  2. Beans
  3. Sweet Potatoes
  4. Avocados
  5. Apples
  6. Dry Fruits
  7. Whole Grains
  8. Almonds
  9. Berries
  10. Pumpkin

Anti-Inflammatory Foods:

You must include foods that reduce inflammation to improve the markers related to PCOS, such as blood sugar, hormonal imbalance, overweight, and other life-threatening risks.

The Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods are:
  1. Tomatoes
  2. Olive Oil
  3. Strawberry
  4. Oranges
  5. Cherry
  6. Walnuts
  7. Lentils
  8. Spinach
  9. Legumes
  10. Fatty Fish such as Salmon, Sardines, and Tuna.

Probiotics:

Probiotics help with your digestion by improving gut health, as well as it, are used to reduce inflammation and regulate sex hormones like estrogen, and androgen.

Ashwagandha:

Ashwagandha helps balance cortisol levels which could improve the stress level of a PCOS patient.

Some Other PCOS-Friendly Foods Which Should Be Added In Your Diet Are:

  1. Dark green leafy vegetables.
  2. Fruits, such as red grapes, blueberries, and blackberries.
  3. Cauliflower.
  4. Dried beans.
  5. Nuts, including pine nuts, and pistachios.
  6. Dark chocolate in moderation.
  7. Spices, such as turmeric and cinnamon.
  8. Zinc-rich foods.
  9. Magnesium-rich foods.

Whichever diet you follow, weight management should be the prime focus of PCOS Patients.

There Are Some Foods Which You Have To Avoid In Your Diet:

Avoid Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates cause inflammation, increase insulin resistance, and should be strictly avoided. Some of the foods are:

  • White bread
  • Muffins
  • Pastries
  • Sugary desserts
  • Anything made with white flour
  • Cakes and biscuits
  • Breakfast Cereals
  • White rice
  • Pasta
  • Beer and wine
Avoid Tea And Coffee

Tea and coffee contain a heavy amount of caffeine. Try to cut out the caffeine intake as it is directly linked to your estrogen levels and hormonal behavior. Try boosting your energy with herbal tea or reach for green tea instead as green tea is best known for improving insulin resistance and weight management in women with PCOS.

What Are The Exercises Helpful In PCOS?

After diagnosis, many PCOS patients experience depression and anxiety from the physical changes that affect their self-esteem. But these signs and symptoms can be improved by changing your lifestyle. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, and making time to relax can help a person manage PCOS.

Here are the best exercises with details of how they can help you to overcome PCOS:

  • Cardio: Moderate exercises such as jogging, cycling, walking, and swimming are all great activities helpful for PCOS. It can increase your response to insulin, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • Strength Training: Exercises like push-ups, squats, or dips can also improve the consumption of insulin and boost your metabolism.
  • Core Strength: Adding core training to your exercise routine is required as it supports the spine and if you are trying to conceive then start training your pelvic floor muscle to support a healthy pregnancy.

The most effective exercise is the one you love to exercise, so choose the one you like and enjoy doing.

Conclusion

There is no permanent cure for PCOS, but diet and medical treatment can help you to overcome the markers of PCOS such as weight, glucose levels, and other complications. Talk to your doctor and make a treatment plan. It is best to avoid processed foods and those containing high amounts of added sugar and salt. Increasing your water intake, including fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce the effect of PCOS.