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Polycystic ovary syndrome: Myths & Facts

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Cutting out smoking and alcohol may reduce chances of PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which there are many small cysts in the ovaries. These cysts can affect a woman’s fertility because they disturb hormone cycles. Usually, women with PCOS have low levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and high levels of androgens (male hormones).

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common gynecological disorder in India and the leading cause of fertility complications in women. Some of the common symptoms of PCOS include infrequent menstrual periods with irregular bleeding; hair loss from the scalp; excessive hair growth all over the body, a condition called hirsutism; acne and oily skin; depression or mood swings; weight gain; pelvic pain; sleep apnea and inability to conceive.

PCOS is very common in India. It is estimated that 1 in every 10 women in India has PCOS but because of lack of awareness it is not detected on time and many women keep suffering. The incidence of PCOS is higher in urban cities and is growing among adolescents and young girls.

Dr Manoj copy

There are several myths and misconceptions about PCOS that are not true. In an interview with the TrickyScribe, Director, Atmantan Wellness, Pune, Dr. Manoj Kutteri, unveiled some of the intricacies of the syndrome. Excerpts:

Myth: PCOS Only Affects Women in Their 30’s and Beyond

Fact: The fact of the matter is that PCOS does not discriminate based on age. While it was once thought that PCOS only affected pre-menopausal women in their 30s and beyond, the medical community is now recognizing that the condition can affect females of all ages, and even young adolescent girls.

Myth: Women Who Develop PCOS Cannot Have Children

Fact: The truth is that while PCOS can complicate conception, it does not have to prevent you from having a baby. There are treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your condition and, as a result, achieve pregnancy when you are ready.

Myth: All Women Who Have PCOS Have Ovarian Cysts

Fact: The name of this disorder is very misleading. Many women assume that PCOS only exists in women who develop ovarian cysts. This is definitely not true. PCOS is a hormone-related disorder and ovarian cysts, while common in women who have the condition, do not have to be present in order for the disorder to be diagnosed.

Myth: All Women with PCOS Are Overweight

Fact: While PCOS and the resulting insulin resistance can lead to excess weight and obesity, not all women who have PCOS are overweight nor do women who live with this condition have to remain overweight if they are having trouble losing excess pounds. A proper diet and certain insulin-regulating medications can help the weight problems that are commonly caused by this frustrating disorder. If PCOS has led to significant weight changes in your body, there is hope. While you won’t be able to lose the weight overnight, you will be able to fight these changes and get your body back.

Myth: There is No Cure for PCOS

Fact: This myth is technically true. There is no actual “cure” for PCOS. However, there are many treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you take control of the disorder. A proper diet, control of insulin and an active lifestyle can make a significant difference. For example, if you are insulin resistant due to your PCOS, you might be given a prescription called Metformin. If you are suffering from acne, a dermatologist can help you control your acne symptoms. Instead of letting your PCOS control you, these changes will help you control your PCOS.

Myth: PCOS is only caused by an imbalance in the hormones

Fact: Most PCOS cases do have an underlying hormonal imbalance as the cause but there are other factors that also cause this condition such as genetics or excess insulin production. Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese so they need to make lifestyle changes to reverse this condition. These changes would include diet and exercise, avoidance of stress, ensuring enough rest and sleep and cutting out smoking and alcohol.

Myth: All women with PCOS experience the same symptoms

FACT: PCOS symptoms vary from woman to woman. In some cases the symptoms start gradually and worsen over time and in some cases symptoms might not surface for a long time. As soon as any of the common symptoms of PCOS manifest it is advisable to go for a checkup. This ensures an early diagnosis and the start of the right treatment.

Myth: Diabetes causes PCOS

FACT:Research shows that PCOS is related to insulin resistance and the development of diabetes, however diabetes does not necessarily always lead to PCOS. Women are advised to track any pre diabetes risks that exist for them as individuals such as a family history of diabetes, excessive weight gain, an unhealthy diet and over consumption of sweetened drinks. In general, a nutritious diet would include plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and good fats.

Myth: Losing weight will cure my PCOS

FACT: Losing weight will not get rid of this condition. It could however reduce its impact. Studies have shown that weight loss improves ovulation thereby significantly improving pregnancy outcomes.One contributing factor for PCOS is the release of excessive androgens (male hormones) by the ovaries than can lead to weight gain especially around the abdomen. So it is important to maintain a healthy weight by eating right and exercising because excess weight gain with PCOS can lead to other complications like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea.

If you are diagnosed with PCOS there is no need to worry because all its symptoms can now be managed with the right treatment. My advice to all women is to be aware of the health conditions that can affect them during their reproductive years and to seek medical guidance early so that the preventive measures can be initiated early and if treatment is required, it can be provided in an efficient and timely manner.

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