Author: Dr. Chandana N

Qualification : M.B.B.S, M.S (OBG), DNBE, Advanced Training in High-Risk Obstetrics, Fellowship in Reproductive Medicine (FNB)

PCOD: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Also known as Polycystic Ovarian Disorder, PCOD is a medical condition in which the ovaries produce large numbers of immature eggs which over time form as cysts in ovaries. It is a metabolic disorder which causes hormonal imbalance in almost 5-10% of women in their reproductive age. A common health condition among teens and young women, it is prevalent in women between 12-45 years of age. The female reproductive system is controlled by the complex interplay of five main reproductive hormones including estrogen, progesterone, gonadotropin releasing hormone, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone. A disturbance in the balance of these reproductive hormones results in PCOD amongst women in their child-bearing age. Marked by an imbalance between the reproductive hormones, PCOD disrupts the female hormonal control and causes the ovaries to release abnormal amounts of male hormones called androgens.

Symptoms

Leading to a range of chronic diseases over time, PCOD is a serious medical condition and requires proper medical attention. The initial symptoms can be subtle, and many women suffering from the condition may not even know it. In fact, some symptoms might show up around the first period and women only discover once they’ve gained a lot of weight or find it difficult getting pregnant. So here are some of the most common signs that shed light on the symptoms of PCOD.
  • Irregular periods
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Excessive Hair growth
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Skin darkening
  • Baldness
  • Headaches

Causes

There’s no concrete study to suggest a single gene mainly responsible for PCOD. It is most likely to be caused by complex processes that involve multiple genes. Although the exact causes of PCOD are unknown, doctors suggest the following factors to be among the main causes of PCOD.
  • Excess Insulin Production: Excess insulin level in the body is known to increase the androgen production in the body. This is one of the main factors that cause difficulty with ovulation
  • Excess Androgen Production: The ovaries start producing abnormally large amounts of androgen that can result in acne and excessive hair growth.
  • Inflammation: Recent studies show that women with PCOD suffer from low-grade inflammation. This results in an increased level of androgen production which can lead to problems with blood vessels or heart.
  • Hereditary: Research suggests that women with immediate female relatives suffering from PCOD have a 50% chance of getting PCOD.

Treatment

Lifestyle changes like weight loss, diet and physical fitness usually marks the beginning of PCOD treatment. A wealth of research suggests that losing just 5-10% of your body weight can help regulate the menstrual cycle, improve cholesterol levels, lower insulin levels and improve PCOD symptoms. Although an absolute cure for PCOD is yet to be determined, this will certainly make your treatment easier and more effective. However, with proper treatment and lifestyle changes, you can effectively manage the condition.

Medical treatments

  • Doctors usually prescribe the following medications to improve ovulation:   Clomiphene, letrozole, metformin, and gonadotropins.
  • Doctors also suggest birth control pills containing progestin and estrogen. Reducing the production of male sex hormones, these pills help regulate hormones that let follicles release the egg.
  • Progestin therapy is also suggested by many doctors. During this therapy, doctors usually advise taking progestin for 10-14 days for a month or two to rectify and regulate the menstrual cycle.
  • Although surgery is not the immediate course of action, doctors may suggest Laparoscopic Ovarian Drilling in severe cases. This procedure may help trigger ovulation.

Dietary changes

While many lifestyle changes are recommended to women suffering from PCOD, they are always encouraged to follow a PCOD-friendly diet. Such a diet can help prevent any sudden surge in blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy body weight. A healthy PCOD diet can include:
  • High-fiber foods
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Spinach and other leafy vegetables.

Workout regimen to follow

The first task when you’re suffering from PCOD is to reduce your Body Mass Index or BMI. To get the desired results, it is advised to follow these workouts:
  • Cardiovascular workouts
  • Strength training
  • High-intensity interval training
  • Interval training
  • Mind-body exercises
Although the clear or direct cause of PCOD is still unknown, its early diagnosis can only be constructive and useful in relieving the symptoms, thus reducing the chances of further complications. It can be very effective in helping you manage concerns like infertility, immature follicles, acne, hirsutism, obesity, etc.
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