One of the most common health issues that afflicts many women is polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. The incidence is about 20 to 25 per cent in the urban population and about 11 per cent or less in the rural population. It can affect young girls as well as women in their 30s and early 40s.

And yet, there’s no known reason behind its occurrence. It is considered to be a hormonal imbalance that can lead to symptoms such as irregular periods, weight gain, increased facial hair or hair in other parts of the body (hirsutism), acne on the face and in other parts of the body, difficulty in conceiving, and in later life, diabetes and hypertension.  

One of the ways to control this is to sensitise and educate young women, and this should begin when they are in schools, believes Dr Prathima Reddy, director and lead consultant, department of obstetrics and gynecology, SPARSH Hospital for Women and Children.

Children and their parents must be sensitised about the problems of being overweight, and health issues that can arise due to an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. It has been found that eating an unhealthy diet with lack of exercise tends to give rise to an inordinate amount of weight gain, which can then exacerbate polycystic ovarian syndrome.”

Even though there is no specific treatment for PCOS as such, the mainstay of the treatment is weight management, healthy diet, and exercise. Dr Reddy states that medication can be prescribed for symptoms such as heavy or irregular periods and acne as well as laser treatment for hirsutism, “but these are not long term solutions.”

Even for fertility issues, the doctor says suggests weight loss which helps in reorganising the hormonal milieu in the body, and therefore “increases the chances of ovulation every month and increases the chances of pregnancy. The main problem in PCOS leading to fertility problems is lack of ovulation every month. So, the essential treatment would be to change your lifestyle by looking into your diet, your exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.”

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