The most common symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome include irregular periods, heavy bleeding, hair growth, acne, weight gain, male-pattern baldness, darkening of the skin and headaches.
- Irregular periods: A lack of ovulation prevents the uterine lining from shedding every month. Some women with PCOS get fewer than eight periods a year.
- Heavy bleeding: The uterine lining builds up for a more extended period. So the periods you get can be more substantial than average.
- Hair growth: More than 70 per cent of women with this condition grow hair on the face and body – including on the back, belly and chest. Excess hair growth is called hirsutism.
- Acne: Male hormones can make the more skin oily than usual and cause breakouts on areas like the face, chest and upper back.
- Weight gain: Up to 80 per cent of women with PCOS are overweight or obese.
- Male-pattern baldness: Hair on the scalp gets thinner and fall out.
- Darkening of the skin: Dark patches of skin can form in body creases like those on the neck, in the groin and under the breasts.
- Headaches: Hormone changes can trigger migraines in some women.
An excellent medical and gynecological history is necessary for the determination of PCOS. Besides, pelvic examination, blood tests and ultrasound scan are performed on the patient to confirm suspected PCOS. Usually, doctors make the diagnosis of the syndrome in women who have at least two of these three symptoms:
High androgen levels
Irregular menstrual cycles
Cysts in the ovaries.
Pregnancy and PCOS
When women with PCOS manage to get pregnant, it can also increase the risk of pregnancy complications. These complications may include:
- Premature delivery
- Risk of miscarriage
- High blood pressure
- Gestational diabetes
However, women with the condition can get pregnant by using fertility treatments that improve ovulation. Losing weight and lowering blood sugar levels can improve the odds of having a healthy pregnancy.
Diet and lifestyle changes
Treatment for PCOS usually starts with lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, diet, and exercise.
Losing between five and 10 per cent of body weight can help to regulate the menstrual cycle and improve symptoms. Weight loss can also improve cholesterol levels, lower insulin, and reduce heart disease and diabetes risks.
Studies comparing diets for PCOS have found that low-carbohydrate diets are useful for both weight loss and lowering insulin levels. A low glycemic index (low-GI) food that gets most carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps regulate the menstrual cycle better than a regular weight loss diet.
A few studies have found that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, at least three days a week, can help women with PCOS to lose weight. Losing weight with exercise also improves ovulation and insulin levels
Exercise is even more beneficial when combined with a healthy diet. Diet plus exercise helps you to lose more weight than either intervention alone and it lowers your risks for diabetes and heart disease.
It is for this reason that a consortium of Fertility Societies and the World Health Organisation recommend that a woman who wants to have a baby should undergo some lifestyle changes to cleanse herself.
Birth control pills and other medicines can help regulate the menstrual cycle and treat PCOS symptoms like hair growth and acne.
Taking estrogen and progestin daily can restore a healthy hormone balance, regulate ovulation, relieve symptoms, such as excess hair growth, and protect against endometrial cancer. These hormones come in a pill, patch, or vaginal ring.
Medications used to treat type 2 diabetes also treat PCOS by improving insulin levels. One study found that taking medication, while making changes to diet and exercise, promotes weight loss, lowers blood sugar, and restores a regular menstrual cycle better than changes to diet and exercise alone.
Ovulation induction medications are fertility drugs that can help women with PCOS get pregnant. However, it may increase the risk for twins and other multiple births.