Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is an endocrine-metabolic disorder in which certain hormones are out of balance. Research shows that PCOS affects nearly 4% to 20% of women of reproductive age, causing irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, acne, weight gain, and sometimes, infertility.
PCOS is manageable with early diagnosis and lifestyle changes. However, undiagnosed and unmanaged PCOS can significantly harm your overall health.
PCOS: An Overview
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal, metabolic, genetic and reproductive disorder due to the imbalance of essential hormones, androgen and insulin. The term ‘poly’ refers to ‘many’, and ‘cystic’ means cysts, meaning a woman with PCOS shows multiple fluid-filled cysts.
Women with PCOS either have a high level of insulin from insulin resistance or secrete more than the sufficient level of male hormones like androgen, which causes irregularities in the menstrual cycle. It will, in turn, affect the structure and functional ability of ovaries, ultimately resulting in cysts.
However, PCOS is not simply a disease of the ovaries because not everyone will experience ovarian cysts. Instead, it affects the body beyond the ovaries and acts like a metabolic-reproductive syndrome.
The Impact of PCOS on Overall Health and Long-term Health Complications
Besides unwanted hair growth and uncomfortable acne, PCOS can be a complex condition and build a chain reaction of health issues when left untreated.
The symptoms you experience in the initial stage will lead to life-threatening health risks, including infertility, diabetes, cancer and heart attack.
PCOS treatment aims to address the symptoms and prevent such complications. The treatment plan for every woman is customised to suit her body profile, specific needs and symptoms. Hence with early diagnosis and lifestyle changes, it is possible to bring out a positive outlook for PCOS.
If you are diagnosed with PCOS, your doctor might inform you of the potential long-term effects of the condition, which is not limited to infertility. However, it doesn’t mean you will develop any or all of them. It just refers to women with PCOS having a higher risk of developing these conditions than the person who doesn’t have PCOS.
Here are some long-term health risks that arise from underdiagnosed and undertreated PCOS:
Insulin plays a critical role in balancing the blood sugar level. Women with PCOS risk developing type 2 diabetes since their bodies cannot use insulin effectively. On the other hand, a high level of insulin triggers the ovaries to secrete more male hormones.
About half to two-thirds of PCOS women are insulin resistant and are more likely to experience more significant symptoms and health complications of the disorder over time.
Women with PCOS and who are obese will experience sleep apnea. The condition causes people to stop breathing for a short period while asleep. It will prevent the oxygen supply to the brain and increase the risk of stroke.
High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
PCOS with diabetes or overweight women with PCOS are at higher risk of developing high blood storage and LDL cholesterol when compared with women without PCOS. These conditions will cause heart disease and stroke.
Women with PCOS might feel sad, depressed or anxious as the condition affects their self-esteem and confidence. In addition, its impact on mental well-being makes them develop eating disorders or behavioural problems.
When left untreated for a long time, women with PCOS are highly susceptible to endometrial cancer due to problems with obesity, irregular ovulation and insulin resistance.
PCOS makes it difficult for women to get pregnant. In addition, they are also likely to develop gestational diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy. As a result, it will increase the risk of premature birth and miscarriage.
PCOS often causes chronic low-grade inflammation. It causes the body to produce extra insulin, creating a pathway to excess testosterone production. The root cause of inflammation in women with PCOS is still unclear.
Ways to Treat PCOS Naturally
Even though there is no PCOS cure, you can still control and lower the syndrome’s effects to a great extent. You can minimise these health risks by sticking to a perfect combination of lifestyle changes and diet. Some of them are:
Obesity is often associated with PCOS, and even a slight weight loss will be beneficial in improving symptoms. Loss of total body weight can regulate menstrual cycles, maintain blood sugar and increase the chances of fertility in women. A weekly weight loss of 0.5 kg will be a safe and sustainable target.
Exercise is also a great way to manage PCOS, aiding in achieving the target weight. In addition, being physically active will improve your insulin resistance. Hence, spend at least 30 minutes performing moderate-intensity exercises every day.
Consume Balanced Diet
A well-balanced diet plan is the best and most effective natural treatment for PCOS. Eating healthy carbs and fibre-rich foods like whole grains, spinach, beans, and nuts will increase good bacteria in the gut, strengthening the body. Following a high-protein diet plan will also help you in improving your condition.
Research shows that lack of sleep can increase cortisol hormones, which is unsuitable for PCOS. Hence, aim to inculcate deep breathing exercises before sleeping to help get that deep, sound sleep required to heal the body. Also, a sleep routine of 6-8 hours to control the hormonal changes.
Stress is another factor that worsens PCOS symptoms. That is because the stress hormones will induce the production of male hormones. Hence it is crucial to managing your stress level through medication, good sleep and yoga.
Despite being a common disorder, PCOS is often undiagnosed or undertreated.
As a result, it can contribute to lifelong hormonal imbalances with other severe health conditions. Therefore, it’s essential to have PCOS diagnosed as early as possible and managed with the help of a doctor.
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