20th century physicians were the first to discover and define Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Since that time, it has become one of the more common metabolic and endocrine disorders diagnosed in women during their childbearing years.
Also known as PCOS it is estimated to affect between 6% to 10% of the female population in the United States. It affects approximately 116 million women around the world. The disorder is very complex and has many factors. The exact cause of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome has not been fully determined. Yet many research studies have pointed to certain factors which can reduce some PCOS symptoms.
This condition is known to have a hormonal aspect, and there is also emerging evidence that points to genetics, and environment being a factor. In some cases, the interaction between these two can increase the chances of developing PCOS or a worsening of existing symptoms.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome shares a few common symptoms with other conditions, which can sometimes obscure early diagnosis. Some of the more common or classic symptoms include;
- Irregular periods
- Excess male hormone
- Weight gain
- Persistent Fatigue
- Unwanted hair growth or hirsutism
- Thinning hair
- Fertility problems
- Polycystic-appearing ovaries
Further obscuring diagnosis is the fact that some women simply don’t display classic signs and symptoms of PCOS. Not every woman develops unwanted hair or develops weight issues. Some don’t have polycystic-appearing ovaries, and there are other individuals who develop cysts yet don’t technically have PCOS.
There have been some cases where a woman had no period, while others have abnormally heavy or irregular menses. There are even some women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome who ovulate regularly.
However, the one factor that all women with PCOS share is difficulty conceiving. This makes Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome a major area of concern for couples who are hoping to conceive, and the physicians trying to help them.
What Causes Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
It’s believed that the imbalance in female sex hormones which is very common with PCOS sufferers coupled with an abnormal increase in testosterone, are likely the key factors that prevent the development and release of mature eggs. Even for women who do ovulate with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome the hormone imbalance might simply prevent proper egg implantation in the uterine lining.
Can Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Be Cured Or Treated?
While Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome may not be curable there are some treatment options that can help reduce symptoms. In some cases, it can even improve fertility problems.
There are oral and injectable medications that can be used in conjunction with close monitoring. This might include things like vaginal ultrasounds as well as blood work throughout a menstrual cycle. In some cases, these measures help physicians to optimize the timing of ovulation as well as exposing a viable egg to sperm to improve the chances of conception.
Can Excess Weight Gain Affect Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Excess weight gain is one of the more common results and potential factors leading to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s estimated that between 50% to 85% of women with PCOS are overweight to some degree. This is known to exacerbate PCOS symptoms and can lead to other health complications, which could hamper the chances of conception.
At the same time, overweight women are also more likely to struggle with metabolic dysfunction, which can also include abnormalities in insulin levels and functioning. This an important hormone that regulates blood sugar levels in the body. A woman who develops insulin resistance increases their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, as well as other medical problems such as high blood pressure and even heart disease.
Insulin resistance in patients with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can even occur independent of obesity issues. This highlights the inherent metabolic dysfunction that is also very common with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome sufferers.
The Importance Of Diet In Dealing With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Ultimately, the medications that help with hormonal imbalances, have minimal impact on the metabolic features of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s important to keep in mind that a healthy diet can play a major role in helping ease PCOS symptoms.
In some cases, even a 10% reduction in overall body weight can help women who don’t ovulate to reestablish a regular menstrual cycle. A diet that is low in sugar will not only help you lose weight it can also slow the progress of developing insulin resistance which leads to Type 2 Diabetes.
It’s important to keep in mind that carbohydrates, found in things like bread, pasta, potatoes and rice are broken down in the digestive system and ultimately metabolized to into the type of sugar that the body uses for energy. By limiting the amount of carbohydrates you consume, you also reduce your blood sugar levels.
Thankfully proteins from things like fish, chicken, tofu and beans, are broken down in the body into their component amino acids. Not only does this metabolic process help to burn calories, it can also help reduce blood glucose levels, and potentially promote muscle development.
Exercise Is Also Important
While diet alone can indeed lower blood sugar levels, it can be even more effective at losing weight when combined with exercise. Even something as simple as going for a 30-minute stroll every evening can help reduce blood sugar levels, as well as helping to reduce stress.
You might want to also consider using one of the popular activity trackers. They are specifically designed to do things like measure the number of steps, calorie intake and other factors, which you can use to gauge improvements in your fitness routine. Writing them down in a basic journal or entering them into a software spreadsheet can serve as a good way to track your progress, or simply reminding yourself to do a little better each day.
Your physician can also help you find ways to improve your efforts, which can be tailored to your particular fitness level, as well as other lifestyle factors. By reducing body weight and improving your insulin resistance you could help improve your chances of conceiving despite the presence of PCOS.
Source – USNews