Everything about PCOS and Lifestyle Medicine
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Everything About PCOS: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects the way your ovaries function, resulting in fertility concerns. PCOS affects about one in every ten women in Australia, and many don't realise they have it until they try to have children. If you're wondering about the causes of this condition, keep reading to learn about the symptoms, diagnostic procedures and treatment options available.
What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome, which occurs when your body produces excessive amounts of male hormones called androgens. This hormone imbalance interferes with normal ovulation, preventing eggs from fully maturing or being released during your menstrual cycle.
PCOS can also make it difficult for your ovaries to respond to the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which is needed for ovulation. Excessive stimulation of the eggs and follicles in the ovary after puberty may form many small cysts on the surface of the ovaries, resulting in PCOS.
PCOS has serious health consequences that can affect fertility as well as other aspects of a woman's general health. If it isn't treated appropriately and promptly, PCOS can cause a plethora of health problems, such as the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Infertility or premature birth
- Gestational diabetes
- Endometrial cancer
- Sleep apnoea
What are the causes of PCOS?
The role of genetics in the development of polycystic ovary syndrome is significant. Researchers have found that a quarter of women with PCOS have a mother or sibling who also has the condition. PCOS is also thought to be influenced by a family history of diabetes and infertility.
Aside from hereditary considerations, certain environmental factors, such as smoking, being overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle, enhance the risk of having PCOS by raising circulating insulin levels in the body.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
There are quite a few signs and symptoms of PCOS, which vary for each woman experiencing them. It can affect women of all ages, but most often appears during adolescence or early adulthood. PCOS can also appear later in life as a result of being overweight. The common signs and symptoms include:
- Irregular periods or no menstrual period at all
- Heavy periods with excess bleeding
- Acne or oily skin because of increased hormone production in the adrenal glands and ovaries
- Excessive hair growth on face and body
- Difficulty losing weight because of hormone imbalances
- Infertility or trouble getting pregnant
How is PCOS diagnosed?
There is no clear-cut test to determine if a woman has polycystic ovary syndrome. Your doctor will need to perform a series of tests, including an ultrasound, blood tests, and a pelvic exam, in addition to checking your medical history and menstrual cycle and performing a physical examination, to determine whether your ovaries are affected by PCOS and rule out other health conditions.
One of the most common tests used in diagnosing PCOS is an ultrasound scan, which uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of internal organs. An ultrasound scan and pelvic exam can confirm diagnosis by measuring the size of the cysts on the ovaries. Polycystic ovaries on ultrasound imaging tend to have many small follicles measuring about 2 to 10mm each.
Treatment options for PCOS
PCOS is treated with a combination of lifestyle changes and conventional treatments. To control your oestrogen levels, your doctor may prescribe birth control pills. Hormone therapy, particularly progesterone therapy, may be prescribed to help you manage your menstrual cycle. This sort of therapy, however, can only be used for two weeks every two months to avoid side effects.
Additional oral and injectable drugs may be prescribed by your doctor to relieve your pain and reduce your risk of getting endometrial cancer, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Synthetic or man-made therapies alone are ineffective in the treatment of PCOS, therefore combining them with lifestyle medicine is crucial if you want to see significant improvements in your health and overall wellbeing.
What is lifestyle medicine?
Lifestyle medicine is the science of using diet, exercise and lifestyle changes to prevent and treat both acute and chronic diseases. It is a holistic approach to health care that focuses on changing a patient's behaviour through personalised strategies. A growing number of research studies indicate that lifestyle interventions can significantly improve the symptoms experienced by women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Many women who suffer from PCOS fail to conceive due to low levels of fertility as a result of many things that have contributed to their poor health. Lifestyle changes, such as increased exercise, maintaining a healthy diet free from processed foods, and getting enough sleep, can help to increase their chances of conceiving.
What lifestyle changes are required for PCOS?
Reducing calorie intake, increasing fibre intake and physical activity, and getting 7 or more hours of sleep every night are all part of PCOS lifestyle medicine. Patients are also advised to replace sugary drinks and snacks with healthy options such as fresh fruit or Greek yoghurt.
When it comes to their daily meals, they should go for low-fat dairy products and lean protein sources like poultry or fish, as well as plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like brown rice or quinoa.
Another important component of reducing PCOS symptoms is to engage in five 30-minute sessions of moderate exercise per week, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall, lifestyle medicine can help PCOS patients lessen or even eliminate their symptoms while also effectively managing their health risks through dietary changes, exercise and better sleeping habits.
Although the long-term effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome can be serious, making lifestyle changes can assist to alleviate symptoms and improve a woman's general health and wellbeing.
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