An ailment dealing with hormonal imbalance, Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) has become a major concern among several women today. This is when patients have multiple small cysts in their ovaries. The ovary is enlarged and it produces excessive androgen and estrogenic hormones leading to several bodily issues. Given the fact that PCOD has become a major topic of discussion amongst health experts, we at Be Beautiful got Dr. Sudeshna Ray, Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician at Jaslok, Saifee and Breach Candy hospitals in Mumbai, to talk at length about the ailment and how one can control it. Read on.
PCOD deals with an imbalance of hormones in a woman’s body. Considering it is rather common amongst women today, what are the symptoms that one should look out for before heading to a doctor?
Irregular periods that only occur every 2-3 months, unusual facial hair growth, stubborn acne that does not respond to usual treatments and uncontrolled weight gain are the symptoms for PCOD. You can have even one of these symptoms and it could mean PCOS. So it’s best to consult a gynecologist and then get yourself checked through a medical ultrasound.
While these symptoms could surely indicate PCOD, there are many women who have PCOD even when they are rather lean or have no trace of acne. How is that so?
PCOD is a metabolic disorder, which affects multiple systems of the body. The main pathology behind PCOD is something called Insulin Resistance (IR). Insulin is a substance that manages sugars in our body. IR means that the amount of insulin needed to manage a certain amount of sugar is almost twice the amount needed in non-IR (non-PCOS) women. This can happen in anyone who carries the genetic coding for PCOS; usually seen in overweight women but can happen in lean and thin women as well.
Are there any medicines that can bring PCOD under control?
There are medications available to correct the Insulin Resistance such as Metformin or Myoinnositol, which your doctor can prescribe mainly when there is documented evidence of IR. Other types of medications used in PCOD depend on the symptoms. For instance, we prescribe oral contraceptive pills to regularise periods or control acne or hair growth. But more than anything else, lifestyle change is a must in PCOD. You can take your medication but a lifestyle change will heal you in the long run.
What kind of lifestyle alterations are we talking about?
Well, lifestyle modification in the form of adequate diet and exercise is the key to fighting PCOD. Exercise for PCOD women is extremely important to maintain an optimum weight and thus a balance between the male and female hormones of the body. Moreover, a diet with low carbohydrates, low sugars, high fibres and high protein is recommended for PCOD women. As I said, medications or any other form of treatment is only additional to a lifestyle modification. Unless you bring about a healthy lifestyle, none of the other treatment options will be successful.
How do contraceptive pills work for PCOD?
Contraceptive pills help in regularising periods, controlling acne and excessive facial hair growth. It also increases a substance called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) in blood and indirectly balances the hormones correctly.
If not controlled, what can PCOD lead to?
If not controlled, PCOD can lead to a plethora of problems like difficulty in conceiving and miscarriages. It can also lead to long term problems like diabetes, increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure or even uterine lining (endometrial) cancer.
So does PCOD always lead to complications in pregnancy?
Most women with a well-controlled PCOS will be able to conceive easily within a year of trying. However, those with poor control will need help through medication or artificial methods of pregnancy.
So is this why women with PCOD are advised to conceive early as getting pregnant at a later age can lead to complications?
Women with PCOD have a limited ovarian capacity to produce useful eggs. Hence, it is recommended that they consider an early pregnancy because advancing age adds to the poor quality of eggs.