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Curiosity Central

What are PCOS and PCOD?

Ahana, 16, is facing a lot of problems with her menstrual cycle. Her periods are irregular and painful. Her mother noticed her discomfort and took her to a doctor. After several tests, the doctor detected that Ahana has Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS). The term was very confusing for her and she wanted more information on it. So in this week’s Curiosity Central, let’s find out more about PCOS. 

Blame it on hormones 

A healthy female’s ovary produces ‘female’ sex hormones (estrogen), with tiny quantities of ‘male’ sex hormones (androgen). These hormones help regulate the development of eggs in the ovaries during menstrual cycles.

However, if a person has PCOS, the ovaries produce larger than normal quantities of androgen. This hormonal balance can manifest itself in several ways. For example, it prevents the eggs from maturing fully and instead of being released during a period, it forms a cyst (cavity-type character) in the ovaries.

Is PCOD the same as PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCOD) is often used interchangeably with PCOS. However, they are not exactly the same thing. PCOD is a more specific condition that is characterized by the presence of cysts in the ovaries, while PCOS is a broader term that encompasses a range of symptoms caused by hormonal imbalances.

How does PCOS happen? 

Doctors and scientists are yet to determine what causes PCOS. The US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) says there are certain environmental factors that contribute to a woman developing PCOS, and suspect that genes also play a role, but are yet to determine how and why it gets triggered.

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of PCOS, including genetics, obesity and a high-fat diet. Females with a family history of PCOS are more likely to develop the condition, as are women who are overweight or obese. A high-fat diet can also increase the risk of developing PCOS, as it can lead to insulin resistance and an increase in the levels of androgens in the body.

What are some symptoms of PCOS?

PCOS manifests itself in different ways in every woman. Symptoms can vary from infrequent, irregular, prolonged or painful menstrual cycles to excess facial and body hair.  Other signs include severe acne, male-pattern baldness, weight gain, fertility problems and even depression.

How is one treated for PCOS?

There is no cure for the disease, but there are various medications that can dampen or eliminate the symptoms of the disease.

  • Lifestyle changes: Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise is one of the most important steps. A diet that is low in fat and high in fibre can help to regulate insulin levels and reduce the risk of insulin resistance. Regular exercise can also help to maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and regulate hormones.
  • Medicines: Certain medicines can help keep PCOS symptoms under check, including birth control pills to induce regular periods. Remember one should never self-medicate. Always consult a doctor for any medicines.
  • Surgery: After a surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling, the ovaries are treated using heat or a laser to destroy the androgen-producing tissue. Your doctor can advise you on options if this treatment is relevant to your condition.

You are not alone 

According to the University of Chicago, 5-10 percent of women worldwide are affected by the disease. The symptoms first appear around the start of menstruation – though this can be delayed by several years – and the condition lasts throughout a woman’s reproductive lifetime. It also affects women of all races and nationalities.

PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects many women of reproductive age. It is caused by an imbalance of hormones, specifically androgens (male hormones) and insulin. This hormonal imbalance can lead to the formation of cysts in the ovaries, which can cause infertility and a range of other health issues.

Please remember that PCOS is a lifelong condition, and it is important to manage it with a combination of lifestyle changes and medical intervention. Regular visits to the doctor and monitoring of symptoms are also essential in order to ensure that the condition is being effectively managed.

Photo: Shutterstock/Vyas Abhishek/Person in the photo is a model/Names changed.

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