PCOS awareness month: Your guide to manage 'polycystic ovaries'

From early signs to the right consultation and a healthy lifestyle, here's a complete guide to treating PCOS.

Swarna SrikanthUpdated: Monday, September 26, 2022, 02:09 PM IST
PCOS awareness month |

PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is one of the most common health concerns among women across the world. Recent research in medicine suggests that the condition affects over 20 per cent of women of reproductive age worldwide. PCOS is a common reproductive endocrine disorder that occurs due to hormonal imbalance. With September being marked as PCOS awareness month, we speak to experts to know more about the syndrome.

Right diagnosis 

According to Dr Shilpa Agrawal, PCOS can be problematic if not taken care of. It is not curable, but manageable with a healthy lifestyle. “Lifestyle modification helps deal with PCOS, complemented with medications,” says Dr Agrawal, Consultant, high-risk pregnancy and fetal medicine at Jaslok Hospital. She further adds that early detention can provide better care.

While the syndrome is manageable, it is important to seek the right consultation. It is advised to first approach a gynaecologist. “Young girls are usually shy to discuss their menstrual and hirsutism issues. They seem more comfortable with a gynaecologist who may later refer to an endocrinologist if need be," Dr Agrawal adds. 

PCOS can be managed through either of the medical discourses available, however, depending on a variety of problems raised by the patient. Dr A Prasannalatha, a Hyderabad-based senior obstetrician and gynaecologist, says effective diagnosis and the right medication can help manage PCOS.

“Be it allopathic, unani, ayurvedic or any other, understanding whether the case is genetic or metabolic in nature is crucial to advise the treatment method," says Prasannalatha. Meanwhile, Dr Agrawal laid her faith in the thus-practised branch of medicine, allopathy.

Dr Nivedita Kaul, who holds an work experience with Fortis Healthcare and All India Institute of Medical Sciences, also agrees that genetics have an important role to play. “When a patient’s family history is studied, it can be traced that women affected with PCOS are 50% more likely to have an immediate relative (mother/aunt/ sister) with an ovary-related health condition,” she says.

Can USG reports mislead diagnosis?

Medical reports don’t lie about health problems. However, decoding the signs may be tricky in some cases. “Due to obesity, the visibility on the ultrasound during sonography is poor or unclear. In another case, accurate means of internal ultrasound can not be performed on unmarried and sexually inactive females. Thus, one can't completely depend on transabdominal USG reports for diagnosis,” says Dr Agrawal.

Adding to this, Dr Prasannalatha points out, “Many women go for years without realising they have PCOS. The disorder cannot be diagnosed by a single test. Your doctor, on the other hand, will look if you have at least two of the three key symptoms - period frequency, unwanted hair (androgen levels), fluid-filled swellings/cysts in the ovary (via USG).”

Lifestyle changes are the key

De-stress, relax and sleep calm: The connection between stress, sleep cycle and hormones shapes one’s overall health to a significant extent.

Sound sleep can help maintain hormonal balance in the body, while inadequate sleep can cause an increase in cortisol levels to trigger inflammation.

The hours of sleep and relaxation vary from individual to individual, however, an average of about eight hours is termed ideal. Also, what matters is the quality of rest rather than mere hours of bedtime.

To deal with stress and have a sound sleep, experts suggest a digital switch-off at least 30 minutes before bed. This may provide added benefits when clubbed with placing a cold object on one’s forehead before dozing off, reciting a prayer or something that’s rhythmic.

Exercise regularly: Experts, time and again, remind people to not forget a workout routine to their daily schedule. Adding even about 30 minutes of exercise and fitness care, followed by adequate water intake (avg. 3 L/ day) is an effective way to tackle any health problem, including PCOS. Also, in case of the ovarian disorder, exercise may not only keep one active and fresh, but also help facilitate weight loss and its management.

A nutritional diet: Ms Dwivedi, dietitian and nutritionist at OZiva, suggests including fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

“Include protein-rich foods like beans, lentils, seeds, and nuts. Replace whole wheat with jawar. Add brown rice, barley, quinoa, and bajra to your diet. Coconut and olive oil may help support hormonal balance in the body. Herbs like ashwagandha and basil leaves are good for controlling PCOS. Shatavari, ashoka, flax seeds, and cinnamon are also recommended to be consumed to manage PCOS,” the dietician says.

She further recommends avoiding refined and processed carbohydrate foods like maida and sugary products like soft drinks, as they can lead to an insulin spike in the body.

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