What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common health problem in women and is one of the major reasons for infertility. It is often caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones. The word “Polycystic” simply means “many cysts,” and PCOS often causes clusters of small, pearl-sized cysts in the ovaries. The cysts are fluid-filled and contain immature eggs.

Initially, PCOS was thought to be a triad of oligomenorrhoea (irregular menstrual cycles), hirsutism (excessive body or facial hair) and obesity, but, recent studies showed that PCOS is a multifaceted disease with a spectrum of manifestations affecting not only women of childbearing age, but also adolescents and postmenopausal women (2).
Some of the women with PCOS produce slightly higher amounts of male hormones known as androgens, which contribute to some of the symptoms of the condition, while the metabolic consequences include impaired glucose tolerance, type 2 diabetes, obesity and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. In adolescence, it may cause significant psychiatric disturbances such as anxiety and depression (1, 4).

Symptoms of PCOS:

Every Woman is different…and so is her body, and hence even the symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman. While the typical symptoms are observed during puberty and can get worse with time.
Some of the commonly observed symptoms are: 

  • Mild obesity
  • Excess growth of hair in unusual areas on the body
  • Irregular or complete absence of menses

However, as we said earlier, every woman is different, it was observed in a study that in almost 50% of women with PCOS, the weight was normal and rest were underweight (4). A study conducted in India, showed that the morphology of women with anovulation (lack of ovulation) is a factor common in all cases of PCOS while other symptoms may or may not be present (1).

Some of the other common symptoms are:

  • Infertility (not able to get pregnant) – PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility. Conception may take longer than in other women, or women with PCOS may have fewer children than they had planned. In addition, the rate of miscarriage is also higher in affected women. If able to conceive, the complications during pregnancy may increase which include gestational diabetes, preterm delivery and preeclampsia, these way further worsen if the woman is obese.
  • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff.
  • Weight gain or obesity, usually with extra weight around the waist which occurs sudden and is difficult to get rid of.
  • Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair.
  • Patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs that are thick and dark brown or black.
  • Skin tags (excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area).
  • Pelvic pain.
  • Anxiety or depression.
  • Sleep apnea (when breathing stops for short periods of time while asleep).
  • Cysts in the ovaries.
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