A healthy 23-year-old who believes in staying fit, Parul Mehta was surprised when her period became irregular last year. Tests revealed the marketing executive was suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a genetic disorder that’s among the most common causes of infertility in women. Sedentary lifestyles and stress are rendering more and more city women vulnerable to PCOS, say gynaecologists.
Dr Kiran Coelho, consultant gynaecologist at Lilavati Hospital, says PCOS seems to be striking women earlier than ever. “Our fast-paced lifestyle worsens the condition, forcing it to manifest early in life. Of five women coming to us, one has PCOS.”
Known medically as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, the condition is caused by hormonal imbalance, leading to the formation of 8-10 cysts in the ovary and halting its release of an egg every month. Common symptoms are obesity, acne and irregular period. PCOS cases have almost doubled in the last 10 years, say experts, with more patients belonging to affluent families.
It also puts women at greater risk from life-threatening diseases, such as diabetes and uterine cancer, apart from infertility. For teenagers, the warning signs would be black rings on the neck and armpits and persistent hunger, all indicative of hormonal imbalance, the beginning of PCOS.
Hearteningly, the number of women reporting the problem has risen sharply. Thanks to the internet, women and teenage girls are more aware. “The moment they find themselves suffering from acne or irregular period, they seek medical intervention, unlike in the past. Even doctors are more aware. They are willing to conduct tests on the slightest suspicion,” says infertility expert Dr Aniruddh Malpani.