Roohi Mehra was worried when her 13-year-old daughter, Rashmi, started showing all the classic symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
But it was only when Rashmi’s symptoms got worse that they took her to a gynaecologist, who confirmed the family’s fears.
Studies say PCOS affects five to 10 per cent women in the reproductive age (approximately 11 to 48-year-olds). Among the leading causes of female subfertility, it’s a common endocrine problem in women.
Gynaecologist and infertility specialist Dr Sukirti Jain says, “An ovulation results in irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, and ovulation-related infertility. Hormone imbalance generally causes acne and hirsutism (excessive hair growth). Insulin resistance, another side-effect of PCOS, is associated with obesity, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Its symptoms and severity vary greatly.”
Lifestyle to be blamed
Unlike earlier days, there is a significant rise in the number of teenage girls suffering from PCOS. “Now, not a single day goes without me meeting at least one teenager complaining about irregular periods, excessive hair growth, acne, male pattern baldness, decreased menses or excessive flow,” Dr Jain says.
Adds Gynaecological Laparoscopic Surgeon Dr Mahesh Patwardhan, “Obesity is one of the main reasons why PCOS is on the rise. Most youngsters eat processed and junk food, which leads to quick weight gain. Add to that strenuous academic schedules and extracurricular activities, and they’re left with no time to exercise.”
Common treatment options
Says Dr Jain, “When PCOS is associated with obesity, weight loss is the most effective method of restoring ovulation and menstruation. Vitamin D deficiency may play a role in the development of PCOS, so that has to be treated as well. Some common pointers that I tell my patients include:
– Stop radical dieting. Diet should be for wellness, not starvation. Include more green leafy vegetables and lentils in your meals and avoid junk food.
– Control your blood sugar. Cut down on white bread, pasta, potatoes and oily foods. Replace them with high-fibre carbs and protein-rich foods.
– Exercise facilitates weight loss, acts as a mood elevator and regulates blood glucose levels.”
“Patients should provide a detailed history of their symptoms, so that an accurate diagnosis is possible. Medications include contraceptive pills with a combination of oestrogen and progesterone, which possess anti-androgenic properties,” says Dr Patwardhan.
Medication is crucial
While lifestyle changes are important, medication also plays a big role in treating PCOS. However, drugs are to be taken only in consultation with your doctor.
“Certain drugs aid weight loss, improve cholesterol levels, decrease levels of androgen, restore normal periods and improve sensitivity to fertility drugs. For overweight, anovulatory women with PCOS, weight loss and diet adjustments, especially reducing the intake of simple carbohydrates, are associated with the resumption of natural ovulation. Menstruation can usually be regulated with contraceptive pills. Menstruation is regulated for the patient’s sense of well-being; there is no medical requirement for regular periods as long as they occur sufficiently often,” ends Dr Jain.
Treatment depends on the patient’s symptoms. But it generally aims at:
– Lowering insulin resistance levels
– Restoring fertility
– Treatment of hirsutism or acne
– Restoration of regular menstruation and prevention of endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer