In India, 1 in every 5 (or 20%) women are estimated to have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. This is a condition that has no cure but with the right treatments, the symptoms can be better managed. It is important to remember that not every treatment or approach will work for everyone. Determining a personalized approach that caters to your requirements and goals after identifying your PCOS root cause can be helpful.
Before we go into detail about the 4 top treatments for PCOS, let’s briefly look into commonly associated symptoms of PCOS:
1. Irregular periods
One of the most commonly known symptoms of PCOS, irregular periods is usually one of the first indicators that prompt women to consult with a gynecologist. The reasons for delayed or no periods are usually due to excess levels of androgens or male hormones. Apart from this, insulin resistance( where the body loses its ability to process glucose) can delay periods.
Excess hair growth on the body, including the face, is known as hirsutism, caused by high amounts of androgens activating hair follicles. This extra hair is thicker and darker in color than usual. Hair grows in the sideburn region, chin, upper lip, around the nipples, lower belly, chest, and thighs, which are more common for males to grow hair.
3. Hair loss
Due to high levels of androgens, some women with PCOS have hair loss or thinning of the scalp hair in a male-like pattern: a receding frontal hairline and thinning on top of the head.
4. Skin troubles
If you have PCOS, the higher quantity of androgens in your body might cause the oil-producing glands on your skin to enlarge, resulting in more acne in young women with PCOS. Skin tags, usually known as "acrochordon," are another symptom of PCOS. These thicker lumps of skin can be expected in the armpits, on the neck, or at the bra line. Women with PCOS might experience rough, dark, velvety patches of skin. Acanthosis nigricans is a condition that affects the armpits and neck.
Another common concern among women with PCOS is conceiving. There is a widespread misconception that women with PCOS cannot conceive, this is untrue. They might take longer than their counterparts without PCOS, but they can go on to conceive and carry it to term. High levels of androgens and insulin in women with PCOS can disrupt the menstrual cycle and impede ovulation.
Ovulation can occur infrequently or stop altogether (anovulation). This can make it more difficult for PCOS-affected women to conceive naturally, but it does not mean they are all infertile. Once pregnant, women with PCOS are more likely to experience pregnancy complications.
4 top PCOS treatments
Women can manage PCOS by living a healthy lifestyle and proper medication and treatment.
Below are four different PCOS treatments women should consider taking.
One of the most important treatments for the management of your PCOS is to reduce your weight. It might sound like a very commonplace suggestion to make. However, the reason this is often suggested for people with PCOS is that reducing your weight can help improve your body’s response to insulin and also aid in lowering the production of androgens. The benefits of this can manifest in the form of regular periods.
It can be very frustrating to hear this from experts as PCOS causes weight gain and also makes it more difficult for you to lose the same weight. But it might help to know that even a loss of just 5% of your body weight can really help in the improvement and serve as the motivation you need!
Ways you can achieve this is by incorporating exercise or physical activity (150 minutes a week) into your daily routine. Do not hesitate to diversify your exercise routines and go ahead and include yoga, strength training, High-intensity interval training (HIIT), Zumba, pilates, among others.
💡Did you know that women who follow practice yoga for a period of 3 months, 3 hours each week can see a 29% reduction in testosterone levels?
Getting nutrition right
Another critical element is to get your nutrition right as it helps reduce the risk of developing other health conditions such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, or hypertension.
Below are a few healthy diet tips to consider:
- Try to stay away from processed and refined food as much as possible. Try to include whole grains in your diet.
- Increase intake of fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, beans, berries, etc. By slowing digestion and lowering the impact of sugar on the blood, high-fiber diets can aid in the fight against insulin resistance.
- Drink two liters of water every day. Adding fresh cut-up citrus fruits, cucumber, mint, or berries to your water might make it interesting and prompt you to have more!
- Refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, MSG, trans-fats, and high saturated fat are all examples of simple carbohydrates to avoid.
- Choose packaged goods that include five or fewer all-natural ingredients. Any product with an extensive list of ingredients has most likely been thoroughly processed.
- Make drinking alcohol a once-in-a-while indulgence rather than a daily habit. Once in a while, a glass of red wine is excellent, but the benefits are reversed after one drink.
- To reduce blood sugar spikes, eat small meals every 3-4 hours. Instead of three large meals, they should eat five small meals, which aids in food metabolism and weight management.
- Include a proper balance and combination of lean protein and a complex carbohydrate at every meal or snack.
A very commonly prescribed treatment for PCOS, a medical practitioner might recommend birth control to regulate your cycle. To treat PCOS, birth control has three purposes. Various oral contraceptives and verified doctors can aid in regulating periods and offer cyclic estrogen, which is often disturbed for women who aren't trying to conceive.
- It protects the uterus by ensuring that ovulation occurs regularly. Failure to ovulate periodically can increase uterine tissue buildup, raising the risk of uterine cancer. Progestin works against estrogen in a combination contraceptive to avoid hyperplasia.
- It aids in the reduction of high amounts of male hormones (androgens) in the blood, particularly testosterone. Acne, androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness), and hirsutism (unwanted facial and body hair) symptoms can all be reduced this way.
- It helps prevent unintended pregnancies in women whose ovulation cycles are difficult to track.
Your doctor will recommend this for a fixed period and urge you to pair it with lifestyle changes.
Metformin, is usually used in diabetes treatment and helps in the regulation of sugar levels. This medication is recommended for PCOS to improve insulin resistance. This medication has also been shown to restore regular, ovulatory menstrual cycles in 50-90 percent of women who have been diagnosed.
If a person with PCOS is looking to get pregnant, they might be prescribed certain medications to help in the process. The first line of recommendations are usually lifestyle changes (read: diet and exercise) to help regularise periods. However, despite this, if after 6-12 months the person struggles to conceive, a medical professional might prescribe medications that help in ovulation. There are other assistive reproductive treatments that can also aid women with PCOS in their pregnancy journey.
In general, surgery is not recommended as a first option, but it is recommended for patients with long-term difficulties conceiving.
Ovarian drilling is one such surgery that can be performed for helping women with PCOS. In this, a medical professional will make small incisions into your abdomen and then navigate using a small camera, and make small burns on the enlarged ovarian follicles. The idea is to reduce the secretion of androgens and LH and help ovulatory cycles.
Living with PCOS can sometimes be scary, but know that you can lead a healthy life with the right approach and treatments. Making lifestyle changes which include diet and exercise are some of the common treatments for PCOS.
At Uvi, our mission is to provide science-backed, and personalized care for PCOS. We help you find the right fitness and nutrition regime along with medical guidance to tackle the root cause of your PCOS.
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