You will be shocked to know that at any given time, 20- 40% of teenage girls are plagued by a condition that many have never even heard of- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This disease usually leads to irregular periods, acne, excessive hair growth and sufferers are also likely to be overweight. PCOS is nothing but altered state of psychology and abnormal hormone levels. The three main complications in PCOS are Insulin Resistance, Anovulation (absence of ovulation) and Hyperandrogenia (high levels of testosterone).
The high intake of sugar in the form of carbohydrate, sweets, carbonated drinks etc leads to high level of Insulin in blood, which in turn causes an increase in resistance towards insulin. Thus diet becomes an important catalyst in contributing to this disease. High-fat intake also causes and aggravates insulin resistance, so a calorific western style diet (like unhealthy fast foods) is a typical example of the kind of diet that should be avoided in children to prevent PCOS. Insulin resistance typically causes symptoms like tiredness, lethargy, darkening of skin flexures (behind the neck) and increased the occurrence of diabetes even in young adults.
Another symptom in PCOS is the presence of high levels of androgen (male hormone) compared to the normal girls. This can lead to a myriad of psychological symptoms like irritability, aggressiveness, mood variations, anxiety, depression, social isolation, and poor body image. Physical symptoms may include acne and excessive hair growth, but these symptoms may be absent in some girls. These indications can be controlled by routine exercise and a low-calorie diet in most of the cases.
Unfortunately, these girls are repeatedly condemned to silently suffer from these symptoms, as the teachers and parents quite often misinterpret their behavior without attributing the cause to PCOS. As the girls have the tendency to put on weight and are likely to have extra facial hair, they are further ridiculed by peers and this adds to their predicament of loneliness and social isolation. It is common to find suicide notes by teenagers on the sites of counselors requesting for help, as they find no solace from friends/parents. Counseling of parents and girls greatly helps in the recognition and management of what is essentially a treatable problem, so that they grow up to become confident and healthy individuals.
Furthermore, studies show that in India many of the women who have PCOS fall under the lean PCOS group meaning that they have PCOS even if they are normal or even underweight. As doctors and paramedics traditionally associate PCOS with obesity, women falling under this category are many times under diagnosed.
In addition to the problems discussed earlier, PCOS also leads to long term complications such as sub fertility and pregnancy related problems. They are also at a high risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases and allergic disorders as the body produces inflammatory markers.
In my long career as an infertility specialist, I have seen that one of the main causes of female sub fertility is PCOS. Many of my patients who had previously undergone unsuccessful multiple IVF treatments at other infertility centres have conceived naturally under my treatment just by controlling PCOS. This prompted me to explore this subject deeply by comprehensive reading and understanding the problem by attending numerous international conferences and lectures on PCOS. I have been lucky to meet and gather medical information from prominent doctors and researchers on PCOS. Infertility treatment is quite expensive, making it beyond the reach of many couples and the medicines have side effects if used repeatedly. The long term implications of PCOS are frightful and the sheer volume of girls affected with PCOS is appalling. Hence, I have opened a specialized PCOS wing at GIFT IVF Centre, Kochi for controlling and prevention of this disease, so that many of the affected women can achieve their dream of having a baby and for building a generation of women who are equipped to deal with this menace.
It is the need of the hour that all members of society are aware of this condition that greatly affects the life of not just the woman suffering from PCOS but has a wider impact on her family and society. We need to give priority to introducing fitness programs in school and provide healthy home cooked food to growing children. It is high time to make our young girls healthy and save them from the huge catastrophe related to the pandemic disorder of PCOS.
As a major step towards addressing this concern and for the benefit of our doctors and patients, we are conducting an International Medical Conference on PCOS at Gift IVF centre, Athani( Kochi) on 18/02/18 in collaboration with PCOS Challenge Group USA, where distinguished and prominent International experts on the topic of PCOS will partake and share their invaluable knowledge . This symposium is going to be first of its kind in that PCOS patients and their parents are going to be a part of the conference wherein they can directly interact and clear the doubts with the eminent doctors and related medical faculty learning about the latest methods of treatment.