Facial hair, abnormal periods may indicate PCOS in women

By Arpana Adhikari

Kathmandu, July 17: Harnaam Kaur, a 26-year-old British Sikh model-cum anti bullying activist, with six-inch-long beard and with turban, is well-known face for the social media users. 

People might know that she has a condition called Hirsutism, but many of them may still be unaware what has caused facial hair growth in Harnaam.
She is suffering from the disease called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. This means she has much more testosterone than most women, which causes facial and body hair growth.
Like her, woman with PCOS develop excessive body or facial hair due to higher-than-normal levels of androgens, including testosterone, doctors said.
A research has proved that the condition is so common among women of reproductive age that up to one in five women are said to be affected by the disease.
Like Harnaam, thousands of women and girls of reproductive age (12-49 years) in Nepal are also suffering from this disease.
However, the actual number of women suffering from the disease was still unknown, said Dr. Uma Shrivastav, reproductive endocrinologist.
Dr. Shrivastav, who has been taking note of PCOS symptoms in her female patients for the last 12 years, said in recent years she has diagnosed maximum cases of PCOS in women, including teenage girls.
Not only in Nepal, but the disease is common among women in the South East Asia. Experts are worried that the region is becoming an endemic region of PCOS, said Dr. Shrivastav.
According to her, the women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual period, caused by excess male hormone (androgen) level.
All female produce male hormones, but the level remains typically low. However, certain medical condition could cause a woman to produce excessive androgens, she added.
“In the women with PCOS, their ovaries may develop numerous small collections of follicles and fail to release eggs regularly. This is the reason why they have irregular periods which makes it harder for them to conceivet.”
PCOS is a leading cause of infertility among women in Nepal, she said, adding that almost 90 per cent women visiting her for infertility treatment are later diagnosed with the disease.
The condition is also associated with insulin resistance, where the hormone insulin doesn’t break down sugar from food as effectively as it should. “The person with PCOS is also at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”
According to her, there are three major dangers of the PCOS. The women with PCOs are prone to get diabetes in their early age, are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and in some women the disease also cause cancer in ovary and uterus.
In addition, it could further cause gestation diabetes, or pregnancy induced high blood pressure, miscarriage or premature birth, sleep apnea, depression anxiety and eating disorders. “If your girls are not having regular periods or they have signs of excess androgen such as worsening hirsutism (face, neck, chest, arms and legs), acne, obesity, male-pattern baldness, then it’s high time to see the doctors,” she added.
If the girls and women are not getting the period for more than two months, they should take medicine to bring their cycle normal. “If not, then the layers of tissues get piled up in their uterus, and later this might cause cancer.”
These symptoms usually arrive when a woman is in her teens or twenties, said Dr. Shrivastav, adding that the underlying reason for this common women health syndrome remains a mystery, though it’s highly likely that genetic play a role.
It is also said that the unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits might also cause PCOS, she said.
There is no cure of PCOS. But the treatment of the associated problem is a must for the patients to avoid other health risks, said doctors.
The birth control pills are given to regulate menstrual cycle by providing the progesterone need in female body and diabetes drugs, like metformin are given to reduce insulin resistance.
It is said that adopting healthy lifestyle, taking homeopathic medicine and doing regular yoga practice could help overcome the condition.  

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