Polycystic ovarian disease or PCOD is a hormonal disorder common in women of the reproductive age. This article deals with the symptoms of PCOD and its complications.
In polycystic ovarian syndrome, women may have prolonged menstrual cycle and increased androgen levels, which is a male hormone. PCOD can make it a little difficult for women to get pregnant. Ovaries have numerous fluid-filled sacs called follicles where an immature egg develops. In the case of PCOD, due to the increased levels of androgen and hormonal imbalance, the eggs do not reach the maximum size and hence do not rupture. These underdeveloped oocytes form a cyst and stay in the ovaries; this, in turn, makes it difficult for the eggs to be released regularly. Studies show that polycystic ovaries on ultrasound are seen in about 25% to 30% of reproductive-aged women.
PCOS is a basically a “syndrome,” or group of symptoms that affects the ovaries and ovulation. It has three main features they are:
- Cysts in the ovaries
- High levels of male hormones
- Irregular or skipped periods.
What are the Symptoms of PCOD?
Signs and symptoms of PCOD vary in type and also the severity. PCOD Symptoms include both the physical symptoms as well as mental and emotional symptoms. Physical symptoms of PCOD may include the following:
- Hair loss or hair becomes thin on the scalp
- Hirsutism (excessive facial hair or hair on the body)
- Irregular periods
- No periods at all or heavy menstrual cycle
- Excessive bleeding during the time of periods
- Eggs that do not ovulate
- Infertility or problems in conceiving
- Enlarged ovaries with small cysts
- Obesity or gaining more weight
- Increased levels of blood sugar
- Skin becomes dark along the creases of the neck, groin, and underneath the breasts.
- Soft balloons or skin tags of hanging skin in the armpits, or the neck area.
Mental and Emotional Symptoms of PCOD Include:
The Other Symptoms of PCOD That May Be Seen Sometimes Are:
- High blood pressure rates
- Hidradenitis suppurativa
- Fatty liver syndrome
- Eating disorders
- Pain mainly in the pelvic region
- Ruptured cyst
- Dry skin
- Dry eye
- Heavy bleeding from the uterus.
Symptoms of the PCOD often start developing around the time of menarche, the first onset of the menstrual cycle during the puberty stage. In other cases, PCOD may also occur later, for example, as seen in response to a major weight gain. Irregular and prolonged menstrual cycles are the commonest symptoms of PCOS. In case you have lesser than nine periods a year i.e., more than 35 days in between two menstrual cycle and abnormally heavy bleeding then these are signs of PCOD. Excess androgen, the elevated levels of a male hormone, results in physical symptoms like excess body and facial hair called as (hirsutism), and occasionally male-pattern baldness and severe acne also appears. Often, in the case of PCOD, ovaries can be enlarged and have multiple underdeveloped follicles; and as a result, the ovaries might fail to function regularly. If you are overweight then this syndrome might cause more problems.
What are the Complications of PCOD?
If you have a PCOD and you have an increased level of androgen, then you may have a number of complications which usually vary from women to women. Some of the complications of PCOD include the following:
Infertility as a Complication of PCOD: Cysts in the ovaries can mainly interfere with the ovulation process. In the case of PCOD, it is difficult to predict when one ovulates or even if a woman will ovulate in a given month or not. Although getting pregnant can be very difficult when you have PCOD, with the right treatment, medications, and monitoring of the ovum growth getting pregnant might not always be so difficult.
Insulin Resistance: Insulin is a hormone, which mainly helps the cells in your body to absorb glucose from the blood which later reserves it to use as energy. In the case of PCOD, a woman’s body develops insulin resistance, the cells in your muscles, organs and the other tissues usually do not absorb blood sugar. As a result of this, much of the sugar stays in the blood causing diabetes, which can be a problem to your cardiovascular and nervous systems. Increased body weight causes a higher risk of insulin resistance, problems with infertility, risk of type 2 diabetes, and risk of cardiovascular disease, which includes high blood pressure and heart disease.
Metabolic Syndrome as a Complication of PCOD: There is a high risk of metabolic syndrome in women with PCOD. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions which are impaired glucose tolerance, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, increased blood cholesterol levels and also causes type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Endometrial Cancer: PCOD is directly not responsible for causing endometrial cancer. However, a woman often experiences irregular periods which increases the risk of endometrial cancer. In this case, the endometrium thickens and increases the risk of abnormal cells which may result in cancer as one age.
Other Possible Complications Of PCOD Include:
- Bleeding from the uterus and risk of uterine cancer
- Problems in sleeping
- Inflammation of the liver
- Abnormal body or facial hair growth
- Hair thinning on your head
- Weight gain around the waist
- Acne or dark patches and other skin problems
- Heart attack
- Breast cancer
- Insulin resistance
- Sleep apnea
- Gestational diabetes or hypertension
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a severe form of liver inflammation which happens due to fat accumulation in the liver
- Miscarriage or premature birth.
If you are having irregular periods or are unable to get pregnant, having frequent mood swings, unexplained weight gain, changes in your hair or skin, etc. these could be signs of PCOD and the condition needs to be treated at the earliest before it worsens. Knowing the symptoms of PCOD and its complications can help you seek timely medical advice.