PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a common endocrine condition usually seen in women during the reproductive age. In India, one out of five women are diagnosed with PCOS which is caused due to the development of numerous small follicles (cysts) in the ovaries.
PCOS can be associated with metabolic abnormalities which can lead to health problems such as infertility, risk of endometrial cancer, cardiovascular risk factors, and type 2 diabetes.
PCOS can be identified through some common warning signs such as irregular periods, acne, and hair growth on the body (particularly facial hair due to higher levels of male hormones), obesity, scalp hair loss and thinning of hair, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
PCOS and genetics
It is believed that PCOS results from genetic flaws in combination with environmental aspects. Recent research suggests that a gene involved in male hormone (testosterone) production plays a significant role in the development of PCOS.
The increase of testosterone in a woman is reflected through symptoms like facial hair, scalp hair loss and excess body hair. Genetic defects may lead to abnormal functioning of the hormones, which in turn results in ovaries becoming enlarged and getting filled with fluid sacs or follicles that surround the eggs. The increased production of male hormones and excessive production of insulin prevent the ovaries from functioning normally.
Therefore, in that sense PCOS can be considered to be a genetic disorder and family history of the disease becomes a risk factor.
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PCOS is not completely curable, but it can be treated and managed. One’s lifestyle significantly contributes to the development of this disease. The best way to manage PCOS is through making conscious lifestyle changes. PCOS is not a life-threatening disease but needs to be managed or treated to avoid long-term complications. Making the following simple changes in one’s lifestyle can contribute to preventing/ managing this condition:
Treatment of PCOS focuses on lifestyle alterations and medication. While surgery can help shrink the ovarian cysts, it is less likely to be performed given the success of hormonal treatments in the present days. Long-term non-medical treatment is geared towards altering risk factors and health problems often related with PCOS like diabetes, excess weight gain and heart disease.