Why it's a good idea to find out if you have PCOS

Why it's a good idea to find out if you have PCOS
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Even if you’ve not heard of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), it’s a good idea to find out if it’s something you suffer from.

As it is, the hormonal disorder affects about 10 per cent of women in the reproductively active age group and can lead to serious complications. Dr Goh Lit Ching, a resident doctor at DTAP Clinic, tells us more about this medical condition that gives rise to follicles or cysts in the ovaries.

Common symptoms of PCOS

According to Dr Goh, the symptoms of PCOS vary in individuals. However, the most common symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles; obesity, because women may gain weight rapidly due to the underlying hormonal imbalance; and excess androgen, wherein an excess of the male hormone can lead to excessive facial and body hair, severe acne and male-pattern baldness.

Common causes of PCOS

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown but it is said that hereditary factors sometimes play a role.

“This is a complex trait that results from the interaction of diverse genetic and environmental factors, usually manifesting when mature hormone levels are achieved at puberty. Some women who have PCOS also have other underlying hormonal disorders such as high levels of insulin or insulin resistance,” says Dr Goh.

How PCOS is diagnosed

If PCOS is suspected, hormonal blood tests and an ultrasound scan of the pelvis will be carried out to look for evidence of multiple cysts or follicles in the ovaries.

When there is an imbalance of female hormones, the ovaries may not release an egg regularly every month. And if there is an accumulation of unreleased eggs, the ovaries will show a polycystic ‘string of pearls’ appearance on an imaging scan.

Management options

While PCOS is not reversible, its symptoms can be managed successfully with lifestyle

change, medication or both and most women with the condition can lead a normal life without significant complications.

Dr Goh explains that oral contraceptive pills can be used to regulate menses and restore regular menstrual cycles while artificial ovulation can be induced to increase the probability of pregnancy if one is having fertility issues.

“Excessive hair growth can be treated using hair removal methods or with the suppression of male hormone production using hormonal pills, and lifestyle measures such as regular physical activity and dietary changes can be prescribed to those struggling with obesity.”

PCOS-related complications

Due to improper function of ovaries, the common complications of PCOS include fertility related issues such as miscarriage, premature birth or difficulty to conceive. However, PCOS can also worsen the diagnosis of underlying chronic medical diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and metabolic syndrome.

ALSO READ: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Everything you need to know about this disorder

“According to statistics, more than 50 per cent of women with PCOS will have diabetes or pre-diabetes before the age of 40. Mental health related illnesses such as body image disorder, depression, anxiety and eating disorders may also arise due to physical symptoms caused by PCOS,” adds Dr Goh. She points out that the risk of developing endometrial cancer (lining of the womb) may also increase in women with the condition.

This article was first published in Her World Online.

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