Polycystic Ovary Syndrome affects millions of women. Here's everything you need to know about PCOS.

Common questions women have about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that you’ve probably heard of either because someone you know has it or because you’re worried that you might. Either way, PCOS awareness is critical, considering its rising levels across the globe and the way it affects all aspects of a woman’s health. Here’s everything important that you need to know about PCOS.  

1. What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

PCOS is primarily a hormonal disorder caused by an imbalance of the reproductive hormones. Androgens, which are typically male hormones, are present in higher levels in women with PCOS. This prevents the eggs produced by the ovaries during each menstrual cycle from being released as they should be. This, in turn, results in irregular periods and development of cysts in the ovaries.  

2. How common is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

One in every five women in India has PCOS. While PCOS is highly prevalent, it often goes undiagnosed and unmanaged for most women suffering from it. It’s increasingly affecting women between the age group of 15-30 years.   

3. What are the common symptoms?

Some of the most common symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) are: 

  • Irregular, infrequent or absent menstrual cycle.  
  • Infertility or difficulty in getting pregnant. 
  • Excessive hair growth on the face, stomach, chest and back.  
  • Weight gain, especially around the belly. 
  • Hair thinning or male patterned baldness.  
  • Acne, oily skin, dandruff and other skin issues.  

4. What causes Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

The reason for this hormonal disorder is not yet known. However, doctors believe it to be a combination of genetics and several lifestyle issues. If your mother, sister or aunt has PCOS, there’s a high chance you may too. Experts believe that a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, irregular sleep patterns, increased levels of stress, play a vital role in causing PCOS.  

5. What’s the relation between obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

About 60 per cent of women with PCOS are also obese, as found by a study conducted by AIIMS. Obesity and PCOS can feel like a trap, for each provokes the other. While PCOS is more common in obese and overweight women, PCOS further leads to weight gain, which then worsens the condition and the cycle continues.  

6. Are there any other health-related issues? 

While it is not a fatal disease, PCOS can lead to several serious health issues like: 

  1. Diabetes: Almost 70% of women with PCOS have high insulin resistance, making them vulnerable to type 2 diabetes.  
  2. Heart diseases: The risk of developing heart diseases is significantly higher in women with PCOS. 
  3. Depression: Women with PCOS are at a higher risk of suffering from anxiety and depression. Younger women are also more affected by the changes in physical appearance due to PCOS. 
  4. Cancer: The lack of regular ovulation and the hormone progesterone increases the risk of endometrial cancer in women with PCOS.  

Related: Why we need to focus on women’s mental health?

7. How is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome diagnosed?

PCOS is a chronic condition; there is no cure for it. However, it can be managed. Therefore, it is essential to have PCOS diagnosed. There are a few different ways in which your doctor could find out if you have PCOS: 

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will check your blood pressure, BMI, waist size and may also check areas for excessive hair growth.  
  • Blood tests: Your doctor might also ask you to get certain blood tests to check your androgen levels as well as glucose levels. 
  • Pelvic exam: A pelvic exam would help your doctor see if your ovaries are enlarged or have cysts.  

8. What is the treatment for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?

PCOS treatment primarily aims to control the symptoms and lower the risk of heart diseases and diabetes. The type of treatment would depend upon the symptoms and whether the woman wants to conceive or not. These include: 

  • Lifestyle changes. 
  • Incorporating regular exercise and a healthy diet.
  • Birth control pills. 

Birth control pills help reduce male hormone levels and regulate the menstrual cycle, among other things. This is a popular treatment option for women who don’t want to get pregnant. However, there are some side effects, and all the symptoms return once the pills are stopped.  

Consulting your doctor and getting the right treatment for PCOS helps both physically and emotionally. Becoming more aware, reaching out to support groups and friends with PCOS can also help cope with the condition. If you are wondering why women face more health issues than men as they age, read this article. 


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