What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS is a condition that 12-15% of women in the reproductive age in India have, but there is not enough information available. One of the foremost indicators for women with PCOS is that they have irregular cycles — cycles which are less than 21 days or over 35 days.
A woman’s body has both oestrogen, the female sex hormone, and testosterone, the male sex hormone. Testosterone is usually present in a smaller amount. Essentially, PCOS is a hormone disorder where women produce a higher-than-usual amount of testosterone.
During a woman’s period, an egg is released by an ovary, cuing the start of her menstruation cycle. However, polycystic ovaries occurs when the egg is not released by the ovaries. To detect if a woman has PCOS, an ultrasound test is usually conducted. Women with PCOS tend to present with slightly larger ovaries along with follicles. The follicles, which are essentially nurseries for the eggs, release an egg every 14 days. Fourteen days later, a woman has her period. If that egg is not being released for some reason, these follicles resemble a pearl necklace, which are basically unreleased eggs. When this happens, the period either gets delayed, or it doesn’t occur at all.
What are the sympt
PCOS has three main symptoms — irregular periods, unwanted hair growth on face and back, and acne. However, one need not have all three symptoms to be diagnosed with PCOS.
“When we say PCOS, it is a broad spectrum. It can start with just slightly regular cycles or it can be full blown PCOS, where there are no periods unless she takes tablets; a lot of unwanted hair growth on the face like a male pattern, and a lot of pimples and a lot of outbreaks of acne which are really bad, and, of course, weight gain issues,” says Dr Aruna Muralidhar, a senior gynaecologist and obstetrician at Fortis La Femme Hospital in Bengaluru.
Dr Chitra Selvan, an endocrinologist at Bengaluru’s Ramaiah Medical College, says that it is important to eliminate the conditions the symptoms could mimic. This is where a visit to a gynaecologist becomes important to diagnose PCOS correctly.
“I think the most important thing that most patients with PCOS don’t get is that just having PCOS itself is a risk factor for developing more dangerous disorders in the future, like diabetes, hypertension or dyslipidemia. There is also evidence to suggest that women with PCOS are more at risk for heart disease,” Dr Chitra says.