Polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is an endocrine-metabolic disorder in which certain hormones are out of balance. To research shows that PCOS affects nearly 4% to 20% of women of childbearing age, causing irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, acne, weight gain and sometimes infertility.
PCOS is manageable with early diagnosis and lifestyle changes. However, undiagnosed and unmanaged PCOS can significantly affect your overall health.
PCOS: an overview
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal, metabolic, genetic and reproductive disorder due to the imbalance of essential hormones, androgens and insulin. The term “poly” refers to “many” and “cystic” means cysts, which means that a woman with PCOS has multiple fluid-filled cysts.
Women with PCOS either have a high level of insulin due to insulin resistance or secrete more than the sufficient level of male hormones like androgens, which causes irregularities in the menstrual cycle. This will in turn affect the structure and functional capacity of the ovaries, ultimately leading to cysts.
However, PCOS is not just a disease of the ovaries as not everyone will experience ovarian cysts. Instead, it affects the body beyond the ovaries and acts as a metabolic and reproductive syndrome.
The impact of PCOS on overall health and long-term health complications
Along with unwanted hair growth and uncomfortable acne, PCOS can be a complex condition and create a chain reaction of health issues when left untreated.
The symptoms you experience in the initial stage will lead to life-threatening health risks including infertility, Diabetescancer and heart attack.
Treatment for PCOS aims to treat the symptoms and prevent such complications. Each woman’s treatment plan is personalized based on her body profile, specific needs and symptoms. Therefore, with early diagnosis and lifestyle changes, it is possible to bring out a positive outlook for PCOS.
If you are diagnosed with PCOS, your doctor may tell you about the potential long-term effects of the disease, which are not limited to infertility. However, this does not mean that you will develop any or all of them. It simply refers to women with PCOS having a higher risk of developing these conditions than the person who does not have PCOS.
Here are some long-term health risks that come from underdiagnosed and undertreated PCOS:
Insulin plays a vital role in balancing blood sugar levels. Women with PCOS are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes because their bodies cannot use insulin effectively. On the other hand, a high level of insulin causes the ovaries to secrete more male hormones.
About half to two-thirds of women with PCOS are insulin resistant and are more likely to experience more significant symptoms and health complications from the disorder over time.
Women with PCOS who are obese will suffer from sleep apnea. The condition causes people to stop breathing for a short time while sleeping. This will prevent the oxygen supply to the brain and increase the risk of stroke.
High blood pressure and cholesterol
PCOS with diabetes or overweight women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing high blood storage and LDL cholesterol compared to women without PCOS. These conditions will lead to heart disease and strokes.
Women with PCOS may feel sad, depressed, or anxious as the disease affects their self-esteem and confidence. In addition, its impact on mental well-being causes them to develop eating disorders or behavioral problems.
When left untreated for a long time, women with PCOS are highly susceptible to endometrial cancer due to problems with obesity, irregular ovulation, and insulin resistance.
PCOS makes it difficult for women to get pregnant. Moreover, they are also likely to develop gestational diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy. As a result, it will increase the risk of premature birth and miscarriage.
PCOS often causes chronic low-grade inflammation. It causes the body to produce extra insulin, creating a pathway for excess testosterone production. The root cause of inflammation in women with PCOS is still unclear.
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Untreated PCOS can lead to more serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, infertility, obesity, sleep apnea, and depression. However, a balanced diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes can significantly prevent and manage PCOS. Therefore, PCOS is not dangerous if you get early diagnosis and treatment.
Ways to Treat PCOS Naturally
Even though there is no cure for PCOS, you can still control and reduce the effects of the syndrome to a great extent. You can minimize these health risks by sticking to the perfect combination of lifestyle and diet changes. Some of them are:
Obesity is often associated with PCOS, and even a slight weight loss will be beneficial in improving symptoms. Losing total body weight can regulate menstrual cycles, maintain blood sugar levels, and increase the chances of fertility in women. A weekly weight loss of 0.5 kg will be a safe and sustainable goal.
Exercise is also a great way to manage PCOS, helping to achieve target weight. Additionally, being physically active will improve your insulin resistance. Therefore, spend at least 30 minutes performing moderate-intensity exercise every day.
Consume a balanced diet
A well-balanced diet is the best and most effective natural treatment for PCOS. Eating healthy carbs and high fiber foods like whole grains, spinach, beans, and nuts will increase the good bacteria in the gut, thereby strengthening the body. Following a high protein diet will also help you improve your condition.
To research shows that lack of sleep can increase cortisol hormones, which is not suitable for PCOS. Therefore, aim to inculcate deep breathing exercises before sleep to help achieve that deep, healthy sleep needed to heal the body. Also, a 6-8 hour sleep routine to control hormonal changes.
To manage stress
Stress is another factor that aggravates PCOS symptoms. This is because stress hormones will induce the production of male hormones. It is therefore crucial to manage your stress level through medication, good sleep and yoga.
Although a common disorder, PCOS often goes undiagnosed or undertreated.
As a result, it can contribute to permanent hormonal imbalances along with other serious health issues. Therefore, it is essential to have PCOS diagnosed as early as possible and managed with the help of a doctor.