What are some symptoms of PCOS and what are the dietary requirements for someone suffering from the condition?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the leading endocrine disorder in women, with 5-15 per cent of all women suffering from the disease.

PCOS is a medical condition comprising several abnormalities starting with an irregular period that is delayed by over 40 days or more. The other symptoms are signs of androgen (male-like hormones) excess such as increased hair growth, acne, obesity and insulin resistance.

You can have cysts on your ovaries but this alone does not meet the diagnostic criteria for the disease. Many practitioners in the region wrongly label women with having PCOS simply if they see cysts on the ovaries. You must have either signs of androgen excess or irregular periods along with the cysts to make the diagnosis.

Women with PCOS are more likely to develop diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, also known as metabolic syndrome. Because of these risks, diet, exercise and ultimately weight loss to obtain the proper body mass index (BMI) is very important. A low carbohydrate diet can be beneficial for weight loss and help with blood sugar levels. Women should consult their physician and/or a nutritionist to help them embark on a proper diet.

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Women with PCOS may have decreased fertility and trouble getting pregnant because the androgen excess and insulin resistance interfere with ovulation, hence the irregular periods. Modest weight loss of even a few kilos can help regulate the period and help a woman achieve pregnancy.

If a woman does not desire pregnancy then oral contraceptive pills can help with regulating the period and can also help decrease hair growth and acne.

Dr Jennifer Kasirsky is consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mediclinic Parkview Hospital. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.