Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is reportedly one of the most common endocrine hormonal disorders affecting women in the Middle East. One study found prevalence of the syndrome to be as high as 27.6 per cent among women in the UAE and is a leading cause of infertility.
Doctors warn that despite the rise in prevalence, women still remain unaware of the serious implications of the disease. The close link with the sedentary Dubai-lifestyle calls for raised awareness on the importance of a healthy lifestyle – which also happens to be the main way to treat the disorder.
“Polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the most common endocrinopathies amongst women and is very commonly seen in Dubai,” explains Dr. Shiva Harikrishnan, Consultant Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Medcare Women & Children Hospital.
“It is characterised by high levels of male hormones, cysts on the ovaries which is detected by ultrasound scan, and irregular or skipped menstrual periods. We don’t know exactly what causes PCOS – it may be that the high levels of male hormones prevent the patient’s ovaries from producing regular hormones and making eggs. However, genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation have all been linked to excess androgen production.”
Women diagnosed with PCOS commonly display abnormalities in insulin regulation. Excess insulin might increase androgen production, causing difficulty with ovulation. These women also exhibit a type of low-grade inflammation, which also stimulates androgen production and can also lead to heart and blood vessel problems. This excess androgen production common to PCOS cases can result in hirsutism and acne. There may also be a hereditary link to PCOS as it is commonly seen in family groups.
"We don’t know exactly what causes PCOS – it may be that the high levels of male hormones prevent the patient’s ovaries from producing regular hormones and making eggs. However, genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation have all been linked to excess androgen production.” - Dr. Shiva Harikrishna
“Some women start seeing symptoms around the time of their first period. Others only discover they have PCOS after they’ve gained a lot of weight or they’ve had trouble getting pregnant. Patients should see a healthcare professional as soon as they suspect symptoms to ensure the best overall outcome. There are numerous treatment options, including medication and surgery,” Dr Harikrishnan adds.
The main avenues of treatment revolve around weight loss and the implementation of a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition advice, a carb-controlled diet and adequate physical exercise are all first line treatment options for PCOS. Even a modest reduction in weight can improve hormonal imbalance. Doctors can also prescribe medication to regulate menstrual cycles and encourage ovulation.
References available on request.
The main avenues of treatment revolve around weight loss and the implementation of a healthy lifestyle.