According to a study conducted by PCOS society, one in every 10 women in India has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a common endocrinal system disorder among women of reproductive age. And out of every 10 women diagnosed with PCOS, six are teenage girls.
A study conducted by Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, AIIMS, shows that about 20-25% of Indian women of childbearing age are suffering from PCOS. While 60% of women with PCOS are obese, 35-50% have fatty liver. About 70% have insulin resistance and 60-70% have high level of androgen and 40- 60% have glucose intolerance. In the studies done in South India and Maharashtra, prevalence of PCOS were reported as 9.13% and 22.5% respectively.
Typical PCOS symptoms:
Girls and women suffering from Polycystic ovary syndrome exhibit a range of PCOS symptoms. Most of the symptoms begin shortly after puberty and they can also develop during late teens and into early adulthood. The symptoms include:
- Weight Gain
- Unwanted Hair Growth
- Thinning of Hair
- Excess acne
- Pelvic Pain
- Constant Headaches
- Irregular Sleeping Patterns
- Mood Changes
Effects of PCOS
Girls with PCOS usually experience the following effects-
- Irregular periods or amenorrhea and heavy or scanty bleeding during menses. Doctors also look for elevated levels of the male hormone androgen (testosterone) and polycystic ovaries. .
- With PCOS, women can develop cysts due to ovaries not being released on time. The follicles keep growing and form multiple cysts, which appear like “a string of pearls”. Women are also likely to develop PCOS if their mother or sister also has this condition.
- Women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing complications such as hypertension, high cholesterol, anxiety and depression, sleep apnea, heart attack, diabetes and endometrial, ovarian & breast cancer.
- Women who have PCOS also have a higher rate of miscarriage, gestational diabetes and premature delivery.
Unfortunately, PCOS cannot be cured. However, it can be managed to a large extent by controlling symptoms. Exercise and a healthy diet are the best bet for women with PCOS symptoms as this will help to regulate their menstrual cycle and lower blood glucose levels.
Regarding dietary needs
- High-fiber foods can help combat insulin resistance by slowing down digestion and reducing the impact of sugar on the blood.
- Great options for high-fiber foods include: broccoli, cauliflower, and sprouts, red leaf lettuce, green and red peppers, beans and lentils, tomatoes, spinach, almonds and walnuts, olive oil, fruits, blueberries and strawberries and fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon.
- Lean protein sources like tofu, chicken, and fish don’t provide fiber but are very filling and a healthy dietary option for women with PCOS symptoms.
- Instead of 3 big meals, they should have 5 small meals which helps in metabolism and in maintaining weight.
- If women with PCOS are suffering from infertility, fertility drugs may be administered to aid ovulation. On the other hand, if a woman does not want to get pregnant, birth control pills may be prescribed.
- In order to stop excess hair growth and help reduce acne, using anti-androgens is the recommended course of action. While many women have been recommended to regularly exercise (minimum 45 mins a day, 5 times a week ), one refrain that we commonly hear is that they don’t have time. 5-10% of weight loss will help to improve the symptoms, hormonal balance & regularization of the menstrual cycle.
- PCOS among women, especially adolescents, is an urgent public health problem that needs careful assessment, timely intervention, and appropriate treatment. Promotion of healthy lifestyles, the need for regular exercise and increased awareness programs on PCOS is the need of the hour to enable a holistic solution to this problem.