PCOS has become incredibly common in India, with every one in five women1,2,3 being diagnosed with the condition. It is primarily caused due to stress and other lifestyle choices. However, the exact cause of PCOS remains unknown. PCOS typically affects women’s ability to reproduce. This article explains the causes of PCOS, why it occurs, and the PCOS treatment course. Also, find out whether PCOS is covered under health insurance plans.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder commonly occurring in women. Women with PCOS suffer with unbalanced reproductive hormones. Hormones are essentially the chemical messengers that traverse through different organs and tell them how to function. The hormones in your reproductive system allow functions like menstruation and childbearing. For women struggling with PCOS, these hormones are unable to carry out their duties efficiently.
PCOS generally occurs in women during their childbearing years. Most women are diagnosed with PCOS in their 20s or 30s. However, most women may not even know that they suffer from PCOS. Only when they face difficulties conceiving, they typically learn about their PCOS diagnosis. Obesity due to lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet are among the leading causes of PCOS worldwide.
The exact cause of PCOS is still unknown. Doctors believe the following to be the significant PCOS causes.
Increased androgen levels
Androgen is a male hormone found in small quantities in women. It helps kickstart puberty and stimulates hair growth in underarm and pubic areas. When the androgen level rises, it inhibits ovulation. Without the ovaries releasing eggs, the menstrual cycles become irregular, causing sacs to develop in the ovaries. Increased androgen can also lead to acne and unwanted hair growth, especially facial hair, chest hair, etc.
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It controls the glucose levels that produce energy in the body. Increased insulin causes excessive release of the male hormone androgen, present in the female body. Elevated glucose level causes diabetes and obesity, which can further amplify PCOS.
Inflammation occurs when the body’s white blood cells (WBC) protect it from bacterial and viral infections. However, unhealthy lifestyle choices like excessive smoking and alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, and increased weight can reduce the pace at which WBC fights infections. Low–grade inflammation causes a rise in androgen levels, therefore, causing PCOS.
Common PCOS symptoms
The following are the symptoms that women with polycystic ovary syndrome typically experience.
- Abnormal menstruation: Irregular, scanty, or empty periods is the most commonly known PCOS symptom. Some women may experience a heavy period as well.
- Acne: PCOS can lead to facial, chest or back acne, which is generally difficult to treat.
- Skin darkening: PCOS can cause acanthosis nigricans. It is a skin condition causing discoloration in areas of the body with folds and creases, including the armpits, neck and thighs area.
- Hirsutism: Increased androgen levels can cause abnormal hair growth on the face, arms, abdomen and chest areas.
- Infertility: Another common PCOS symptom is infertility, i.e., the reduced ability of the ovaries to produce eggs that affect a woman’s ability to conceive or get pregnant.
- Hair loss: PCOS may cause women to lose patches of hair, leading to hair thinning and partial baldness.
- Ovarian cysts: PCOS can cause tiny sacs of fluid in the ovaries.
- Skin tags: Skin tags are little flaps of extra skin found in the armpits or on the neck.
- Metabolic syndrome: Women can suffer from various metabolic conditions such as abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure or high sugar.
- Diabetes: It is caused due to increased sugar levels.
There is no definitive diagnosis for PCOS. During the consultation, your doctor may ask for your period history and analyze noticeable symptoms like acne, facial hair, etc. Your doctor may recommend the following tests:
- Blood tests: Blood tests measure the hormone and glucose levels in the body. The doctor may also recommend screening tests to check cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Transvaginal ultrasound: A transducer placed in the vagina emits sound waves that get translated into images. Your gynaecologist or endocrinologist checks for the thickness of the uterus lining and the appearance of the ovaries.
There is no specific known cure for PCOS. Women can manage the PCOS symptoms by making changes to their lifestyle, taking medication or undergoing surgery in rare cases. You must work on a treatment plan with your doctor and consider long–term risks. PCOS treatment courses include:
- Home remedies: Maintaining a balanced diet and engaging in physical activities can help with weight loss.
- Medication: Depending on your condition, the doctor may recommend medicines like birth control pills, progestin, clomiphene, metformin, gonadotropins, spironolactone, orlistat, etc., to treat a range of PCOS symptoms.
- Ovarian drilling: A surgeon pokes your ovary with a needle through laparoscopy. The surgery can change your hormone levels and enable ovulation.
For the most part, the PCOS treatment involves a balanced diet, exercise and medication. However, if a woman faces difficulty in conceiving, the doctors may recommend treatments like in vitro fertilisation (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Selected health insurance policies pay for the costs associated with fertility treatments. The sum insured can cover hospitalisation, medication and treatment costs. You can also file claims for gynaecologist consultations.
Insurers may consider PCOS as a pre–existing condition. Therefore, ensure that you declare the same to your insurance provider. Treatments required to treat illnesses arising from pre–existing diseases may require longer waiting periods, up to 24 to 48 months. After the waiting period ends, you can use the sum insured for diagnoses and surgeries.Things to Look Out for in a Health Insurance Policy
When choosing a policy, the following are the crucial factors:
Type of policy: Insurance companies offer several types of health insurance plans, such as general insurance, critical illness plans, cancer care policies, and policies covering pre–existing diseases. Every policy has different parameters.
Waiting period: The waiting period in health insurance is the duration when you cannot make any claims. You can file a claim only after riding out the waiting period which can be between 12 and 48 months depending on the policy.
Sum insured: Policies like critical illness plans and cancer insurance have a higher sum insured and more inclusions than a regular health insurance plan.
Add–ons: Your insurance provider may offer several additional services like free medical check–ups, which you can use for PCOS diagnoses.
With the rising medical costs, the prudent thing to do is be prepared. A health insurance plan comes to your rescue in such times and saves you from spending your life savings on a single medical event. Thanks to technological advancements in the insurance sector, you can now purchase health insurance online. You can also research the various health insurance providers, compare the products they offer, and assess their claim settlement ratios. Remember to buy a policy with a high sum insured to get maximum coverage during a health crisis. Click here to buy health insurance online.Disclaimer: The above information is indicative in nature. For more details on the risk factor, terms and conditions, please refer to the Sales Brochure and Policy Wordings carefully before concluding a sale.