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PCOS - What it Means for Your Long Term Health

PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a hormonal condition that is commonly found in women who are of reproductive age. It starts during adolescence and the symptoms vary with age and time. It is a chronic condition where there is treatment but no cure. It is the major cause of infertility in women and makes it difficult to get pregnant. The symptoms can be managed by making lifestyle changes and taking fertility treatments. It is essential to treat this condition as it can impact your long-term health. Read further to learn more about it.

Symptoms of PCOS

PCOS symptoms vary and are different for each person. It can also happen without a trigger and can change with time and age. Symptoms can include:

  • Absent, unpredictable, intermittent, long, or heavy periods.
  • Excessive hair on the body, face or hair
  • Hair thinning or male-pattern baldness
  • Oily skin or acne
  • Weight gain is mainly around the belly
  • Infertility

Women with PCOS are likely to have many health conditions, which include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Endometrial cancer

It can also cause depression, anxiety, and a negative body image. Symptoms of PCOS, like unwanted growth of hair on the face, hair, and body, obesity, and infertility, cause social stigma, which can affect relationships, work, family, and friends.

What are the Causes of PCOS?

PCOS causes are not known but it is seen to run in families. If any close relatives of yours, like sisters, aunts, or your mother, have PCOS, then the risk of having PCOS is increased. The other likely causes include increased levels of testosterone (male hormone). Normally, testosterone is present in small quantities in all women's ovaries. However, for women with PCOS, this is slightly higher and is linked to many symptoms.

Insulin controls blood sugar; if you have PCOS, the body is not responsive to it. To prevent the glucose from shooting up, the body produces more of this hormone, which leads to irregular periods, weight gain, high testosterone levels, and fertility issues.

Diagnosis

PCOS is diagnosed when at least two of the following symptoms are seen:

  • Unwanted body hair, facial hair, hair thinning, acne, or high levels of testosterone.
  • Absent or irregular periods
  • Ultrasound scan showing polycystic ovaries

Blood tests are done to check the hormone levels, and women with PCOS have high testosterone, estrogen, LH (luteinising hormone), and AH(anti-müllerian).

PCOS Long Term Health Issues

PCOS women are at greater risk of long-term health issues. Some of them are:

Diabetes and Insulin Resistance

Abnormal blood glucose levels can cause diabetes. One of every 10 women with PCOS can develop diabetes. If left untreated, it can damage other organs. You are more likely to have gestational diabetes if you suffer from PCOS. The risk of diabetes is higher if you are more than 40 years of age, are obese, have gestational diabetes, or have close relatives with diabetes.

Hypertension and Heart Disease

Women with PCOS are likely to have hypertension, which may be due to being overweight or insulin resistance. Hypertension can, in turn, lead to heart problems, and it should be treated.

Cancer

If you have less than three periods a year, the endometrium (lining of the womb) can thicken. This may cause endometrial cancer in some women. PCOS can also put women at high risk of ovarian or breast cancer. However, there are various ways to ensure the lining of the womb is protected using progesterone medications.

Drowsiness and Snoring

PCOS can cause sleepiness or fatigue during the day and can also cause snoring.

Depression

PCOS symptoms like weight gain, infertility, or facial hair can affect self-esteem, which can lead to mood swings and depression.

Is there a Cure for PCOS?

While there is no permanent cure for it, there are many PCOS treatment options that can help reduce the symptoms. People who have excessive acne, suffer from infertility, have excessive hair growth or are unable to get pregnant should consult a PCOS specialist.

  • Lifestyle changes can help reduce some of the symptoms, along with following a healthy diet and exercising. This can help reduce the chances of having type 2 diabetes.
  • Medications, which include contraceptives, can regulate the symptoms and the menstrual cycle. There are many medications to reduce unwanted hair and acne due to PCOS.
  • PCOS infertility treatment starts with lifestyle changes and medications or surgery to enhance regular ovulation. If that does not work, In-vitro fertilisation, IVF is the next option.

Also Read : PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease)

Reducing Long-term Health Problems

Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

Eat a balanced and healthy diet that includes whole foods (whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice), fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, and lean meat. Reduce salt and sugar consumption, along with caffeine. Exercise regularly, which should be at least 30 minutes of brisk walking three times a week. Try to maintain your weight and if you are overweight, then you should look for ways to reduce it. If your BMI is more than 30, work out ways to lose weight. That helps in reducing the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes, lowers the chances of heart problems and increases the risk of cancer. Plus, if you are of reproductive age, it gives you a higher chance of becoming pregnant by regularising your periods.

Frequent Health Checks

Once you are diagnosed with PCOS, you should get yourself checked for diabetes every 1 to 3 years. You need to get a period every 3 to 4 months, as that decreases the thickening of the uterus lining. If you have not had periods for over 4 months, you should talk to your doctor and get an ultrasound scan of the uterus done.

Talk to your doctor to find out how often to get your blood pressure measurements and blood tests to determine cholesterol levels. If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or other psychological problems, you should talk to a counsellor if needed.

FAQs:

1. Is PCOS a serious health condition?

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal condition among women. It is not life-threatening but has many health implications that can affect overall well-being. The severity of symptoms varies, with some having more pronounced symptoms than others.

2. Is PCOS a lifelong problem?

PCOS is a chronic condition, which means it is a long-term issue that needs ongoing management. PCOS does not have a cure, but with medication and lifestyle changes, it can be managed, and women can lead healthy and happy lives.

3. Does PCOS affect the quality of life?

Yes, it can affect the quality of life. The symptoms of PCOS, depending on their severity, can lead to many issues, including infertility and body image issues, and can affect physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

4. Is PCOS a long-standing illness?

Yes. PCOS is a long-standing illness and can also affect your health in the long term. It increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and ovarian or breast cancer.

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