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What is PCOD, and How Can I Treat it?

Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine system disorder that roughly affects 20 – 25 % of Indian women of childbearing age. Despite the disorder affecting 1 in every 10 women in India, there is a lack of awareness and one of the most frequently Googled questions is still, “What is the PCOD problem?” Moreover, since most do not find satisfactory answers, the PCOD problem treatment is often overlooked.

While the exact cause of the PCOD is undetected, it results from a hormonal imbalance. Ordinarily, the ovaries produce sex hormones for development of eggs during each period cycle. However, when a woman suffers from PCOD disease, the production of androgen (a type of sex hormone) is higher than normal, and the production of estrogen and progesterone are lower than usual. The symptoms of PCOD include irregular periods, heavy bleeding, unusual growth of facial and body hair, obesity, acne, hair loss, headaches, infertility and skin darkening around the neck, groin and under breast area. A person suffering from PCOD disease can have all or one of these symptoms because the disorder affects several systems in the body.

Apart from an imbalance in sex hormones, the PCOD problem is also associated with low-grade inflammation, excess insulin, and genetics. An unhealthy lifestyle and exposure to pollution may also lead to the PCOD disease. Left uncontrolled, PCOD can cause numerous concerns such as complications in pregnancy, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, increased long term risk of endometrial cancers, increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and even breast cancer. Considering the aforementioned, it is crucial to seek help to resolve the PCOD problem and avoid further pitfalls. To guide you through this path, we’ve put together some ways in which you start your healing journey:-

Targeted Medication

A typical PCOD problem treatment plan should be personalized to address specific concerns of the woman suffering from it. Since there is no one solution to treat the malady, treatments include managing individual concerns such as infertility, hirsutism, acne or obesity. The following are some ailments that come with PCOD along with ways of dealing with them:- (Please note that you must consult a doctor before you treat PCOD, the following list is only to brief you on what you may expect to be prescribed.)

Irregular menstrual cycle:

To regularize your menstrual cycle, birth control or progesterone pills may be prescribed. They help restore hormonal balance, regulate ovulation, combat excessive hair growth in unusual areas and protect against endometrial cancer. These hormones namely estrogen and progestin are available in different forms such as pills, birth control patches, or vaginal rings. While pills are most commonly used, birth control patches are like bandages that stick on your skin and release certain hormones into your body. The vaginal ring on the other hand is inserted inside your vagina and continuously releases synthetic estrogen and progestin. Consult a gynecologist to determine which is most suitable for you.

Type 2 Diabetes: Doctors often prescribe Metformin to promote your body’s sensitivity to insulin and treat Type 2 Diabetes. It can also help women lose weight and regulate their menstrual cycle.

Fertility: Clomiphene can assist in pregnancy by helping the eggs to mature before they are released. The intake of Clomiphene can however increase chances of giving birth to twins.

Hirsutism: The problem of unwanted hair could be treated with the use of oral contraceptives as mentioned above and if that is not effective, doctors might prescribe anti-androgens that block androgens from attaching to their receptors in your body. Topical creams are also used to treat excessive hair growth especially on your face. Last but not the least, laser therapy and electrolysis can also help to get rid of unwanted hair by damaging the hair follicles in that area.

Lifestyle Interventions

The best and safest “PCOD solution” – as one often asks Google, is to make changes to your lifestyle by including a healthy diet and regular exercise into your daily routine. It has been revealed that losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help in regulating your periods and reducing your PCOD symptoms. Weight loss also assists in improving cholesterol levels, lowering insulin, and reducing risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Engaging in a 30 minutes moderate-intensity workout at least three times a week can help with losing weight. Changes in diet can include intake of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as they are free from artificial sugars, hormones, and preservatives. Focus on consuming healthy protein and include anti-inflammatory foods such as olive oil, tomatoes, leafy greens, etc. to combat inflammation. Last but not the least, increase your iron and magnesium intake and add some fibre to assist with digestion.

Sleep Hygiene

Since PCOD is caused by a hormonal imbalance, women suffering from this disease might also experience interrupted sleeping patterns. One way to reduce PCOD symptoms is to try and improve your sleep hygiene by limiting screen time and caffeine intake and resisting the temptation to eat before sleeping. Engaging in regular exercise can also help in improving your sleep.

— While you may make dietary, lifestyle and sleep changes to improve your lifestyle, you must consult a doctor before you decide to pop in any medication. Lastly, know that 1 in 10 women in India suffer from PCOD/PCOS, so you are not alone in your struggle to fight it. The best way to monitor your symptoms is to avoid stressing and keep calm.