By: Madiha Malik and Pari Saharkhiz
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a hormonal disorder in which the ovaries produce higher than normal male hormone (androgen). The overproduction of androgen causes the eggs to turn into cysts that are filled with fluid. Instead of being released during a menstrual cycle, these cysts remain in the ovary and become enlarged. The symptoms of PCOS are often more noticeable in women in their 20s to 30s. Women with PCOS experience different symptoms with different level of intensity. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Irregular periods and bleeding
- Amenorrhea (no periods at all)
- Multiple small painless cysts in the ovaries
- Thinning hair and excess hair all over the body
- Acne and weight gain
- Skin tags and darkening of the skin around neck, underarm and groin
- Increased blood sugar
- Infertility in some women
- Anxiety and depression
How is PCOS diagnosed?
A pelvic exam and vaginal ultrasound are normally done to find ovarian cysts after the doctor has completed a physical exam and taken the patient’s medical history. The ultrasound allows the doctors to check for thickening of the uterine wall (endometrium), which can build up if a woman is not shedding it during her menstrual cycle. Hormone levels are checked through a blood test as well as insulin and glucose. There are other conditions that have similar symptoms as PCOS, so the doctors will do a thorough examination to rule them out as well.
How is PCOS managed?
As advised by the doctor, women who are diagnosed with PCOS learn to manage their symptoms through hormone balancing treatments. An endocrinologist (hormone specialist) can work together with the patient to create a holistic treatment plan. The quality of life for a woman with PCOS can be improved through making lifestyle changes e.g., avoiding processed foods and regular exercise. A healthy lifestyle can also prevent any long-term health conditions.
Inositol supplements hold promising grounds for the management of PCOS. Emerging research suggests that the use of D-chiro-inositol and Myo-inositol manage excess hair, acne, female-pattern hair loss, irregular menses, male hormone production, infertility, and insulin resistance. Management of insulin resistance alone is effective in preventing many cardiometabolic diseases including obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, whole-body inflammation, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders. Women with PCOS may also take advantage of topical acne treatment and physical hair removal modalities. Doing so can improve body image and increase the self-confidence of the individual.
The diagnosis and treatment of PCOS is very important as an untreated disorder can lead to many long-term health problems. Some of the conditions that are associated with poorly managed or untreated PCOS are heart disease, infertility, uterine cancer, sleep apnea, and diabetes.
Canadian Women’s Health Network. (2013, March). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). https://cwhn.ca/en/node/44804
Healthwise. (2019, November 8). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). HealthlinkBC. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/tw9103
Wojtkiewicz, J. (2019). Inositols’ Importance in the Improvement of the Endocrine–Metabolic Profile in PCOS. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(22), 5787. doi:10.3390/ijms20225787
Infographic by Elan HealthCare Inc.
About the Authors:
Madiha Malik writes on issues and advice related to Women’s health and parenting. She is a kindergarten educator (RECE) and mother of a two-year-old. She is passionate about teaching young children and supporting families. Her website www.motherhoodwonders.com is a small effort to break the big silence on postpartum depression and anxiety, in particular, amongst the south Asian community.
Pari Saharkhiz is the co founder of Elan HealthCare Inc. She began a career in healthcare with a medical practice and moved into the pharmaceutical industry where she explored the intricacies of product research and development.