What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is one of the most common health problems encountered in women. It is characterized by a hormonal imbalance and presence of cysts in the ovaries.Normally, both male and female hormones are required for the proper functioning of the body. In women with PCOS, male hormones are produced in excess. This hormonal disorder causes symptoms like hirsutism (excess facial hair growth), obesity, thinning of hair, male pattern baldness, acne and irregular periods. If any two of the above symptoms are seen in a woman, then PCOS has to be considered and investigated. Here are some must know facts about PCOS: Around 5-10 percent of women in the reproductive age group are affected by PCOS. Unfortunately, less than 50 percent women are correctly diagnosed and therefore do not receive proper treatment. PCOS is also extremely common in India with approximately 1 in every 5 women suffering from the condition. PCOS appears to have a genetic predisposition. It is more commonly diagnosed in women whose mother or sister also affected with the same condition. PCOS can affect any time after menarche but is usually diagnosed when the woman is in her twenties or thirties. The symptoms seen in PCOS like hirsutism, acne, thinning of hair are linked to high androgen (male hormone) production. Insulin resistance is an important factor in the development of PCOS. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for diabetes. Around40 % of women with PCOS develop either prediabetes or diabetes by the age of 40 years. Women with PCOS often respond to treatment with the anti-diabetes medication metformin, which increases insulin sensitivity. PCOS is among the most common causes of infertility in females. Women with PCOS are more prone to miscarriages, still births, preterm delivery and gestational diabetes. Patients with PCOS are also at a high risk for cardiac disease; the risk of a heart attack is 4-7 times higher in women with PCOS than in their counterparts without PCOS. Around 50% of women with PCOS suffer from obesity. The obesity could be the reason behind these women commonly developing obstructive sleep apnea, which is temporary cessation of breathing during sleep. Control of diet and regular physical activity by women with PCOS can control weight gain to some extent. PCOS also affects the mental health of women. Women with PCOS have high rates of anxiety and depression, which should be diagnosed and treated. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has also been noted in women with PCOS. Women with PCOS should therefore get their liver functions checked to detect fatty liver at the earliest. Women with PCOS are likely to reach menopause 2 - 5 years later than the women without PCOS. Thus, their reproductive age may last longer than in women without PCOS.References: Polycystic ovary syndrome - (https://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html) Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases- conditions/pcos/basics/definition/con-20028841) What is polycystic ovary syndrome? - (http://www.hormone.org/questions-and-answers/2010/polycystic-ovary-syndrome) Bronstein J, Tawdekar S, Liu Y, Pawelczak M, David R, Shah B. Age of onset of polycystic ovarian syndrome in girls may be earlier than previously thought. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2011 Feb;24 (1):15-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2010.06.003. Gill H, Tiwari P, Dabadghao P. Prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome in young women from North India: A Community-based study. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Dec;16(Suppl 2):S389-92. doi: 10.4103/2230-8210.104104.