What is PCOS?
One of the most major health concerns for women today is PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. This hormonal disorder is characterized by a failure of the ovaries to regularly release eggs, and the production of small collections of fluids, called follicles in them.
PCOS is a very common disease in the world today, impacting one in ten women of reproductive age. While its exact causes are not known, it has a range of symptoms that can help in early detection, which include irregular periods, sudden weight gain, and severe acne and hair growth prompted by excess presence of the male hormone androgen in the body.
PCOS can cause a host of problems, including painful and irregular menstrual cycle, infertility, complications in pregnancies, and mood problems such as depression and anxiety.
PCOS and Diabetes – An Unfortunate Link
As stated above, the exact causes of PCOS are not very well known. However, research has hypothesized that one possible cause of this hormonal problem can be excess insulin production by the body.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and helps the body in using sugar (glucose) from our food to provide energy. A body may be forced to produce more insulin to keep the blood sugar level in check if its cells become less responsive to this hormone, thereby increasing the overall level of insulin in the body. And this insulin overproduction can in turn trigger the production of the male hormone androgen (which is also present in the female body in some amount), thereby causing difficulty with ovulation.
Thus, there is a suggestion that PCOS may be associated with improper levels of insulin in the body. However, there is also another major health condition where insulin plays a role – diabetes.
The insulin process described above – the resistance of cells to insulin activity and the subsequent overproduction of the hormone – also takes place in the condition of Type 2 diabetes. Indeed, the vulnerability towards diabetes is particularly marked in women with PCOS, with some studies suggesting that women with PCOS are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as compared to healthy women. Another study indicated that women with PCOS also get diagnosed for the disease four years prior to healthier women.
Not A Lost Battle
PCOS can itself be a very challenging problem. It takes a toll on the mind and body, and often puts a question mark on the issue of family planning. Adding diabetes to the risk makes the situation even more complicated. However, while neither disease has any cure as of now, it does not mean that they have to spell an end to a happy, productive life.
Women with both these conditions, or who are at the risk of developing either or both conditions, can maintain great health with the right support and some sacrifices. Here are some major ways to help you beat these problems –
- Early Detection is Key – In both PCOS and diabetes, any early detection can mean that you have a longer time to engage in preventive and mitigative strategies. PCOS indicates strong family and genetic history, so if some loved one in your family has PCOS, do undergo regular checkups to keep tabs on your health.
- Seek Medical Aid – Unfortunately, women’s sexual and reproductive health continues to be neglected. Many women are often told to ignore their discomfort or pains during menstruation, which is considered normal. But you are the best judge of your body. Do not hesitate to seek a medical opinion if you feel something is off or wrong.
- A Good Diet – A healthy, balanced diet can help in keeping diabetes in check or prevent its onset. It also helps in managing obesity, a major symptom and effect of PCOS which can bring its own set of health problems. Stay away from processed food high in sugars, and lean more towards whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats.
- Exercise – Regular workouts also help in reducing weight, and also helps cells in becoming more sensitive to insulin. Exercise also helps the body burn off excess sugar. Practices such as yoga often have specific asanas to target weight, blood sugar levels, and menstrual discomfort, which can be very helpful for women.
PCOS can be a difficult diagnosis, given its broad impact on your health and the increased risk to Type 2 diabetes that it brings. But with the right support, medical health, and lifestyle practices, you can not only regain your health, but thrive in all areas of your life without compromising your wellbeing.