PCOS is a lifestyle disease which involves problems like irregular periods, scanty menstrual flow, acne, excess body hair, weight gain, darkening of skin along with Polycystic bulky ovaries (PCOD) on sonography and hormonal imbalance including high Insulin resistance and excess of male hormones. Many young women get wrongly diagnosed as PCOD instead of PCOS by the problems they face without correct investigations. There are lot of myths and facts around PCOS.
Myth 1 - PCOS happens only in young women in early twenties to thirties.
Fact: PCOS can happen any time from age of 18 till peri-menopause age group and not necessarily in this age group.
Myth 2 - All women showing Polycystic Ovaries (PCOD) have PCOS.
Fact: Polycystic ovaries can been found in 20 % of healthy women. At the same time, all women with PCOS not necessarily have PCOD ovaries on sonography.
Myth 3 - PCOD ovaries give abdominal pain.
Fact: PCOD ovaries are ovaries where small (< 10mm) size water bubbles (cysts) are arranged at the periphery of the ovary in a pattern of pearl necklace. They do not give any pain or discomfort. The ovarian cysts which give rise to pain are at least 3 cm or more in size which are not found in PCOS.
Myth 4 - Irregular periods and scanty period flow causes weight gain and PCOS.
Fact: Culturally menstruation has been considered as a process where unhealthy blood is thrown out of the women's body. The skipping of periods or decreased flow prevents this cleansing process and leads to accumulation of fat and obesity. Unfortunately its other way round as the weight gain gives rise to hormonal imbalance and hence irregularity of the periods and development of PCOS.
Myth 5 - PCOS happen only in overweight women.
Fact: Weight gain is common in women with acquired PCOS due to bad lifestyle. Almost 80-85% PCOS women are overweight. But PCOS can happen in women with normal body weight, particularly those who have a family history.
Myth 6 - All women with irregular periods have PCOS.
Fact: Period irregularity can also occur in Thyroid disorders, in Hyper-prolactinaemia, eating disorders, over exercise induced low hormonal conditions, particularly in long distance runners.
Myth 7 - Acnes are always due to PCOS.
Fact: Acne or pimples on the face can be due to various causes. PCOS is one of them. Most common are due to skin problems, allergy or dandruff.
Myth 8 - All PCOS women have difficulty in conceiving.
Fact: PCOS causes anovulation i.e stops release of an egg every month but doesn't stop it completely. PCOS women have in-consistent and delayed ovulation and can conceive naturally. Most of the time due to regular skipping of periods they don't realize they are pregnant!
Myth 9 - Medicines can cure PCOS.
Fact: Usually drugs are used to treat the symptoms of the PCOS depending on treatment necessary e.g, infertility or regularization of periods. These treatments don't treat the root cause and hence not the curative drugs. PCOS is a lifestyle disease and the cure is obtained by regular exercises, dietary modifications and weight loss.
Myth 10 - Losing weight can completely cure PCOS.
Fact: Unfortunately PCOS is a lifelong disease. A weight loss of at least 10% will result in improvement of symptoms by decreasing hyper insulinemia and excess male hormones. One needs to continue lifestyle measures and weight loss should be maintained.
Dr. Vaishali Joshi is the #NuaExpert on Gynecology, and is an Obstetrician & Gynecologist at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute, Mumbai.