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Living with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

posted on 8/3/2018 Facebook Facebook

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that seems to be affecting women of child bearing age and is on the rise with family history increasing ones chances of getting PCOS. Under normal conditions, pituitary gland leads to a surge of Luteinizing hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating hormone (FSH) that stimulates ovaries to release female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone and some amount of testosterone (male sex hormone). While LSH surge stimulates ovulation, FSH results in thickening of the uterus lining. In the absence of fertilization, there is shedding of uterine lining resulting in menstrual cycle following which the cycle begins all over again. In PCOS, increased LH and testosterone interfere with the ovulation resulting in irregular periods - light or heavy period more than once a month or every few months or never having your period. This causes build up of cysts leading to enlargement of ovaries, typical of PCOS. The hormonal imbalance also results in several other conditions highlighted in the image.

Studies have shown the combination of both environmental and genetic factors contributing to PCOS. Genetic testing may help in identifying those at risk for this condition so that corrective steps can be taken accordingly. Several women with PCOS show vitamin D deficiency which may be due to the presence of genetic variation, for eg. in the GC gene. The resulting low calcium levels due to vitamin D deficiency hamper follicular maturation leading to cysts in ovaries. Individuals showing presence of variations in this gene, can optimize their vitamin D intake either through supplementation or natural exposure to early morning sun rays for beneficial effect. Folate is another nutrient whose deficiency results in infertility and miscarriage, symptoms found to occur in PCOS due to hormonal imbalance. Folate deficiency may be due to variation in the MTHFR gene which impedes conversion of folic acid to a form of folate that can be used by the body. Folate is required for converting harmful homocysteine to methionine which is required for glutathione production, a major detoxifier in the body. Individuals identified with this mutation can depend on natural sources of folate like leafy green vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, etc. which will help reduce homocysteine, increase insulin sensitivity and help improve symptoms of PCOS. If the folate requirement cannot be met by dietary intake, folate supplements (not folic acid) can be taken.

Lifestyle changes like avoiding high calorie junk food and consuming high-fiber carbohydrates instead of sugary carbohydrates, combined with regular physical activity can help reduce weight and eliminate some of the symptoms. Contraceptive pills help in regulating the menstrual cycle. With treatment, most women with PCOS are able to get pregnant, though in severe cases, laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) may be recommended that involves using heat or laser for destroying the testosterone producing tissues in the ovaries. Studies have shown that when Metformin is given to women for diabetes, and insulin and glucose levels are controlled and ovulation resumes, acne and other skin conditions may improve greatly. While excess hair on face and other parts of the body (hirsutism) can be taken care of by tweezing and waxing, there are medicines that may help reduce skin darkening or discoloration, and prevent hair growth.

By Dr. Seema P. Todur, Ph.D., Sr. Scientific Officer, Positive Bioscience

Disclaimer:The opinions expressed in this blog are representative of the author and may not express the views of Positive Bioscience. This blog is intended for education and information for the general public. Before making any medical decisions a medical professional must be consulted. All rights reserved.

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Disclaimer: Use for educational and informative purposes only. Omissions, errors and incomplete representations are possible. Information has been created to assist non-medical professionals and may be condensed or not fully represented. Positive Biosciences Ltd. makes absolutely no representations to the accuracy of the information presented here, strongly advises independent verification of all facts and cannot be held accountable for any damages whatsoever. Before making any decision(s) a qualified medical professional must be consulted. Information or consultations from Positive Biosciences Ltd. does not qualify as advise from a medical professional.