PCOS
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PCOS generation: the trouble with ovaries

By Gayatri Parameswaran Monday, February 20, 2012 - 14:42
A growing number of women in urban India are discovering that their ovaries aren't working properly. They’ve got polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Gynaecologist Dr Kanthi Bansal says 60% of the women patients at her fertility clinic have PCOS.

And the numbers are rising. It’s down to a combination of genes and lifestyle, the doctor says.

“Diagnosis has become easier nowadays with advanced medical technologies like transvaginal sonography (TVS) and other methods of ultrasound diagnostics.” So more women suffering from PCOS can be diagnosed and treated, when in the past their problem went unrecognised.

But easy diagnosis alone isn’t the reason for high numbers. “I would say that definitely more women today are suffering from the disorder,” Dr Bansal says.

Genes and lifestyle

PCOS has been identified as a genetically acquired disease. “If your mother has it, there are good chances that you could get it. For example, if there are five sisters in the family, two to three might have it passed on from the mother. So you should always look for symptoms and be watchful,” Dr Bansal says.

But the obvious question is – why are women falling prey to PCOS now more than ever? An unhealthy lifestyle, says Dr Bansal.

“Working women these days have to deal with a lot of stress. They don’t get enough sleep and the body systems are altered.”

That’s not all. Junk food, desk work and lack of exercise are increasing the risks of contracting PCOS. Though no studies have yet found the ratio of genetic pre-disposition to lifestyle as causes for PCOS, Dr Bansal is sure lifestyle plays an important role.

Hormonal imbalance

Apart from problems with getting pregnant, women suffering from PCOS might face hormonal imbalances. These might show up in different symptoms. The most common is irregular periods. But weight gain is a typical problem. “Not all women with PCOS become obese,” says Dr Bansal, “but some women who are obese could have PCOS.”

In some cases, PCOS triggers an increase in testosterone levels, which can produce some masculine features. “They could have excessive growth of facial hair, hair around the nipples, on the chest etcetera. Some women also develop acne,” she says.

Treatable

The good news is that once it’s diagnosed, PCOS is treatable. There’s a three-step approach towards treating PCOS. The first stage is lifestyle management.

“We ask women to adopt a healthy lifestyle. For instance, lose weight, if they are obese. Losing weight can trigger changes in hormonal levels, which can be beneficial for treating PCOS,” says Dr Bansal.

If this fails, Dr Bansal advises medical treatment. “Hormonal injections are an example of medical treatment. There are also various drugs available to balance hormones in the body.”

Finally, there’s an option of surgery on the ovaries to improve their hormone production.

*To protect the identity, names have been changed and the person/s in the picture is/are models.

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