By Khadija Mesh’al As-Sulaimi
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – also known as the Stein-Leventhal Syndrome – has been getting much-needed attention in the Kingdom lately, and with good reason. According to recent studies, PCOS is one of the most common illnesses affecting women at approximately 6-7 percent. In the Kingdom, this has become a common occurrence and is one of the leading factors behind female infertility.
Dr. Aqeela Ayaz is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Hera’a General Hospital in Makkah, and she told Saudi Gazette that PCOS is a remarkably common condition in the Kingdom, although lack of awareness has made the suffering of patients with PCOS a largely silent affair. “Most women realize that they have PCOS when they visit a clinic because of infertility or menstrual cycle disturbances,” she said.
According to the National Women’s Health Information Center, PCOS is a health condition in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. It affects a woman’s menstrual period, fertility, hormones, heart, blood vessels, as well as appearance, mostly in the form of excessive facial and body hair. With PCOS, women typically have high levels of androgens – male hormones – missed or irregular periods, and a number of small cysts in their ovaries.
PCOS symptoms may vary from one woman to another. Some suffer from mild symptoms, while others are affected more severely by a much wider range of symptoms. “General symptoms of PCOS include irregular or no menstrual periods, infertility, acne, obesity, excessive facial and body hair, loss of hair on head, depression and mood swings,” Dr. Ayaz indicated.
Diagnosis and treatment
Dr. Ayaz explained that the diagnosis of PCOS depends a great deal on the history of the patient with questions about symptoms like menstrual period, hair growth and infertility being asked by the specialist. “Moreover, the patient needs to undergo lab tests to check blood sugar and hormone levels; an ultrasound if needed to look for polycystic ovaries,” she added.
The treatment again varies with the severity of symptoms as well as the patient’s wishes. “The first step of treatment is lifestyle modification i.e. the incorporation of a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, decreased consumption of sugar, salt and caffeine as well as regular exercise,” explained Dr. Ayaz. “A woman who suffers from PCOS needs to lose weight if she is overweight as this is the primary treatment.”