PUNE: The last one year or so has seen an uptick in the number of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) cases, mostly due to factors such as being confined at home, decreased physical activity, higher consumption of junk and restaurant-cooked food, binge-watching television and other screens, and irregular sleep patterns, according to city doctors.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a commonly found endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS have higher production of male hormones and become resistant to insulin, leading to weight gain, unwanted hair growth and eventual irregularities in the menstrual cycle. Other prominent symptoms of this condition are acne and dark patches on the skin. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can invite lifelong complications like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and infertility. While there is limited awareness of this condition, it can be handled via early detection, medication, weight management, exercise, nutritious food and using assisted reproductive technology for conception.
Dr Rajeshwari Pawar, consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology at Motherhood hospital, said, “Due to the lack of mobility, a large number of women experienced irregular menstruation, hormonal disturbance, stress and weight gain which led to an increase in PCOS cases. Women also tend to neglect irregular or heavy menstrual cycles, dismissing them as a normal occurrence and that too led to increased PCOS cases. Women with PCOS who are obese and have diabetes are more susceptible to Covid-19 than those who do not have PCOS. We have seen an almost 30% increase in PCOS cases among women in the age group of 25 to 30 years over the past few months. Girls in their early 20s are also being diagnosed with PCOS due to a sedentary lifestyle during the lockdown.”
“The common issues in older women with PCOS are glucose intolerance and higher blood pressure. Women who already have PCOS are also facing difficulties. Those who had managed to control their symptoms before lockdown are experiencing the symptoms again owing to a sedentary lifestyle. Many teenagers too are reporting PCOS symptoms like acne and facial hair,” Dr Pawar said.
Dr Bhupinder Singh Duggal, obstetrician and gynaecologist from Noble hospital, also said that there has been a rise in the number of PCOS cases. “We have seen a worrisome trend of increase in the number of PCOS cases during the recent one year period. During lockdown, a lot of junk and restaurant-cooked food was consumed. This could have led to irregular menstrual cycles. According to medical literature, around 10 to 15 per cent of Indian women suffer from PCOS but now, we are seeing an increase in the number of cases,” Dr Duggal said.
Dr Karishma Dafle, fertility consultant, Nova IVF Fertility, said that PCOS can also cause female infertility and ovulatory disorder however women with PCOS do manage to get pregnant with assisted reproductive technology. “PCOS prevents the release of eggs on a regular basis and one will not be able to achieve pregnancy. In almost six out of 10 couples seeking fertility treatment, PCOS is the cause of infertility. PCOS also takes a toll on one’s mental and emotional health, including mood swings, stress, and poor body image. Depression, frustration, irritation, stress, and anxiety are common occurrences in women with PCOS. Women with PCOS are often stressed and suffer in silence as they neglect their condition,” Dr Dafle said.
Lifestyle management is very important for PCOS patients which includes eating healthy and homemade food and doing regular exercise. “To control PCOS, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise daily, and monitor your blood sugar levels and hypertension. Include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and pulses in the diet. Avoid processed and junk food which causes weight gain,” Dr Pawar said.
Meanwhile, Dr Sunita Tandulwadkar, president of the Poona Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Society, said that the rise in PCOS cases can also be attributed to the fact that while younger women are now more aware of their health, they care less about it. “The lockdown has undoubtedly changed our lifestyles and has forced us to stay inside longer. However it cannot be the only contributing factor for increased PCOS. I have younger women in the age group of 18 to 22 years walking into my clinic and complaining about irregular periods, so awareness has definitely gone up. In this lockdown, I know of many couples who took the opportunity to lose weight and I know of an equal number of couples if not more that put on incredible amounts of weight. Also the fact that more women are now delaying pregnancy and marriage could also be another factor for the rise in PCOS cases.”