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Weight gain to infertility: Polycystic ovarian syndrome highest among Kashmir women

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Srinagar: Saima (name-changed), 24, experienced a continuous feeling of depletion and low self-confidence after her face developed severe acne. Her frustration levels rose to such an extent that she began covering her face. However, just when her monthly cycle became irregular, she realized the desperate need of consulting a doctor.

“She had earlier resorted to various skin home-remedies but to no avail. In fact, she had also consulted a faith healer to stop the acne. However, it was only when she faced delayed menstrual cycles, she landed at the hospital. Not realizing that Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) is the real cause for her acne troubles,” Dr. Rumaisa Mir, Medical Officer at Sub-district hospital Char-Sharif said.

Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD), also known as PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome. It is characterized by infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs.

In Kashmir, young women have been increasingly being diagnosed with PCOS, in recent years.

“While the most common symptoms of PCOS include irregular menstruation, weight gain, and irregular androgen hormone levels causing acne and male pattern baldness and infertility. Female patients usually mistake acne and hair fall as cosmetic problems or lack of daily exercise until they notice the abnormal change in the menstrual cycle. This is what actually brings them to the doctor,” Dr. Rumaisa said.

Sample this: 22-year-old Rifat (name-changed) from Srinagar, after noticing an abrupt weight gain, went on rigorous dieting. However, the crash diet caused her more harm than good.

“She totally cut down on foods containing carbohydrates and fats. This further led to hormonal imbalance in her. Whilst the root cause tracing to PCOS remained unaddressed. Again, when her periods grew infrequent, she rushed to the hospital,” Dr. Nowsheen Khan, a gynecologist at Lal Ded Hospital, said.

Dr. Nowsheen said one in every ten females in the valley suffers from PCOS. Around 5-10 patients with a history of PCOS report to Out Patient Department daily at Lal Ded Hospital of the valley.

A recent study titled, “Prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) among reproductive-age women from Kashmir valley” was conducted at the Department of Endocrinology, SKIMS, and headed by Professor Ashraf Ganai.

It shows the “prevalence of PCOS is high among Kashmiri women and is probably the highest in a published series globally.”

The study published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics in 2020 estimated the prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) among women of reproductive age across educational institutions in the Kashmir.

“Out of a total of 3300 eligible women, 964 women were evaluated in this study. Among these, 446 (46.4%) were identified as “probable PCOS” cases. Out of 171 probable PCOS women who completed all biochemical, hormonal, and sonographic assessment, 35.3% qualified for a diagnosis of PCOS,” it says.

Dr. Rumaisa stressed that the easiest way to reverse the cycle on PCOS is to make simple lifestyle changes by getting at least hours’ worth of exercise in a day.

“If your PCOS is triggered by obesity, work towards losing weight. Loss of weight will reduce the insulin and androgen levels in your body and possibly also restore ovulation, thereby reducing the symptoms of PCOS. However, avoid crash dieting as it will only aggravate your hormonal imbalance and make your symptoms worse,” she said.

She said the daily diet should include more fresh fruits and vegetables. “Also a diet which includes lean protein and foods rich in Omega-3 needs to be taken,” she added.