A healthy woman’s ovary produces ‘female’ sex hormones (oestrogen), with tiny quantities of ‘male’ sex hormones (androgen). These hormones help regulate the development of eggs in the ovaries during menstrual cycles.
However, if a woman has PCOD or PCOS, her ovaries produce larger than normal quantities of androgen. This prevents the eggs from fully maturing, and rather than being released during a woman’s period, the eggs form cysts (cavity type character) in the ovaries.
Doctors and scientists are yet to determine what causes the disease. The US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) says there are certain environmental factors that contribute to a woman developing PCOD, and suspect that genes also play a role, but have yet to determine how and why it is triggered.
According to the University of Chicago, 5-10 percent of women worldwide are affected by the disease. The symptoms first appear around the start of menstruation – though this can be delayed by several years – and the disease itself lasts throughout a woman’s reproductive lifetime. It also affects women of all races and nationalities.
This disease manifests itself in different ways in every woman. Symptoms can vary from infrequent, irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles to excess facial and body hair, says Mayo Clinic. Other signs include severe acne, male-pattern baldness, weight gain, fertility problems and even depression.
Women with PCOD can develop a number of other health complications, including but not limited to insulin resistance and/or diabetes, lipid abnormalities, obstructive sleep apnea (a serious sleep disorder), cardiovascular diseases and endometrium cancer (which arises from the lining of the uterus).
There is no cure for the disease, but according to England’s National Health Service, there are various medications that can dampen or eliminate the symptoms of the disease.
Lifestyle changes: Losing weight can help cut down many of the symptoms associated with PCOD, as well as many of the associated complications that the disease comes with.
Medicines: Certain medicines can help keep PCOD symptoms under check, including birth control pills to induce regular periods. Do not self medicate. Always consult a doctor for any medicines.
Surgery: After a surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling, the ovaries are treated using heat or a laser to destroy the androgen-producing tissue. Your doctor can advise you options if this treatment is relevant to your condition.