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What is PCOS: Addressing Misconceptions

A normal adult lady expels one egg (ovum) each month from a fluid filled sac. It enters the Fallopian Tube, one on each side of
what is PCOS
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Srabani, a 27 year old plump lady enters my chamber, almost gasping, “Doctor, I’ve a cyst.”

Sometimes, mischief takes over me; sometimes I speak casually to ease the patient’s anxiety. Here both worked. “Where do you have a cyst? On your head or…”

She looked perplexed, “Why doctor? I thought cysts appear in the ovary.”

— “Yes, they may appear in ovaries, and elsewhere as well. Sebaceous cysts appear on the head, face, etc. Cysts may occur in the liver, kidney and in many other parts of the body.”

— “I have a cyst in my ovary.”

— “Again, there are many types of cysts in ovary, dermoid cyst, cystadenoma, chocolate cyst, and others.” I have found that this is the best way to make one aware of his/her misconceptions. Another such misconception is ‘GAS’. I have come across many patients having ‘GAS’ which was actually Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction).

— “But Doctor, UltraSound says so.”

— “Listen, any liquid filled structure like a water filled balloon is called a cyst, now tell me what problems are you facing?”

— “I want to have a baby, and I have some type of cyst in my ovary. My friend Seema has PCOS and she says she won’t have a baby normally.”

— “You needn’t worry, first let me understand what problems you have, may be PCO or PCOS as you say, or other factors hindering your conception.”

— “That means PCO and PCOS are different?”

— “Yes, those are, and please tell your friend Seema that she may conceive without IVF (In vitro Fertilization) even if she is suffering from PCO or PCOS, if other parameters are alright.”

This dialogue is very common nowadays. Misconceptions are rampant. A normal adult lady expels one egg (ovum) each month from a fluid filled sac. It enters the Fallopian Tube, one on each side of the uterus. If sexual intercourse takes place, then pregnancy may set in. Ovary produces Estrogen hormone before and Progesterone Hormone after ovulation. The duet of these two hormones results in menstruation if she is not pregnant. If the egg is not discharged every month, then they remain in the body giving rise to Poly (many) Cystic Ovary. As ovulation does not happen, there is no progesterone, only estrogen plays solo and menstruation may not occur.

— “Yes doctor, sometimes I do not bleed for months.”

— “And you may have excessive hair on your face and chest and acne.”

— “Yes Seema has that, can she conceive?”

— “I cannot say that as I do not know about her, there may be other reasons for her infertility.”

Actually, in these patients, there is excess of male hormones, leading to hairy faces and problems in menstruation. Moreover, as the egg is not liberated, she cannot conceive. 

— “If you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and if you do not take proper care, then in future many other diseases may set in apart from diabetes.”

— “Oh! Is it so? You said Syndrome, What is it? “

Syndrome is a set of symptoms (subjective evidence of a disease) or conditions that occur together and suggest the presence of a certain disease or an increased chance of developing the disease. Truly speaking, the exact cause of PCOS is not known at present, but there are some speculations. Factors likely are Heredity, Insulin Hormone Resistance and Obesity. 

— “So, what should one do who has PCOS?

— “She should reduce her body weight by taking a balanced diet, avoid junk food, go for brisk walking for at least 20 minutes a day, and do aerobic exercises. In addition, she should listen to her doctor and religiously follow his advice.”

— “So, you are suggesting that I shouldn’t panic even if I have PCOS?”

— “Definitely not. Follow a healthy lifestyle, enjoy yourself, listen to your doctor and all is yours.”

Image courtesy: Pexels

Ashok Kr Ghosh is a Gynecologist by profession. He is also a Mountaineer and Traveler and amateur photo artist. He is the recipient of several awards including Honourable Mention, Lalit Kala Academy Award, Excellence Honors from ‘Federation International de la Arte Photograhoque’. Dr Ghosh is also a Naturalist specialising in Ornamental Floriculture and appears as Judge in horticulture exhibitions. His articles are frequently published in leading Bengali periodicals and magazines.

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