They say the skin is the window into what is going on inside your body and if you’ve noticed aggravated acne, pigmentation, hair loss, excessive facial or body hair growth or any combination of these issues, you could be suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS.
September is recognised as PCOS Awareness Month and it is one of the most common hormonal disturbances that affects women all over the world. While skin and hair conditions are the most visible signs of PCOS, menstrual irregularities, polycystic ovaries (ovaries with multiple small follicles seen on ultrasonography), obesity, and insulin resistance (when cells do not respond well to insulin) are all symptoms of PCOS too. So, if you are suffering from PCOS or know someone who is, we’ve got Dr Sonavane, a celebrity dermatologist to answer all of your queries.
“Although the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, medical evidence points to hormonal imbalances, specifically excess testosterone, also known as hyperandrogenism, and insulin resistance. It is also the most common cause of female infertility as hormonal imbalances disrupt the ovulation process, and pregnancy is impossible without ovulation. This syndrome can be difficult to diagnose due to the wide range of symptoms,” she says.
While many women experience acne as teenagers, PCOS can cause acne in adulthood. PCOS-related hormonal changes can stimulate oil production in sebaceous glands on your face, chest, and back. As a result, acne can then develop in any of these areas.
Women with PCOS are also more likely to develop acne that consists of tender knots under the skin and severely clogged pores.
The acne flare-ups that come with PCOS take longer than usual to go and when they do, they tend to leave pigmentation marks over the face and body. This can look like dark spots or discolouration.
Women with PCOS who develop insulin resistance which is a precursor to diabetes are more likely to develop acanthosis nigricans. This is a skin darkening that appears as a black or purplish velvet texture in the underarm, collar area of the neck and around the eyes. These areas may also develop unsightly skin tags.
Due to the excessive male hormones in the body because of PCOS, women may notice abnormal and excessive hair growth on the face and body.
Another common symptom of PCOS is thinning of hair and hair loss all over the scalp. There sometimes is also a widening of the hair parting and an increase in scalp visibility.
Again, because of excess male hormones in the system, some women may even develop a receding hairline.
Women may also be more prone to frizzy hair as a result of excessive hair loss.
Another common hair condition that could be caused by PCOS is having an itchy scalp and buildup. This could also lead to dandruff.
Dr Sonavane explains, “Although there is no cure for PCOS, there are numerous treatment options for managing the syndrome’s various symptoms. The treatments used are determined by a woman’s priorities and symptoms. For example, being at a healthy weight can lead to symptom improvement, so lifestyle changes such as nutrition and exercise may be beneficial. To improve menstrual regularity, some women may require birth control pills. Metformin, a commonly used diabetes medication, can help improve the body’s response to insulin.”
“Treatment is tailored to each individual and is dependent on whether or not pregnancy is a short-term goal. Certain medications, such as spironolactone and retinoids for acne, should be avoided by women who are trying to conceive. Along with oral medications, treatments such as chemical peels for acne, laser treatment for pigmentation, laser hair removal for excess hair, and PRP hair treatment provide excellent responses,” she further elaborates.
Weight loss can lower insulin and androgen levels, potentially restoring ovulation. Meet with a nutritionist on a regular basis if necessary to help you reach your weight goals.
A healthy and nutritious diet will make a significant difference. Diet has a major impact on your weight as well as your PCOS. Consume fresh, home-cooked meals and stay away from packaged food.
Avoid using milk derived from animals. You can consume fermented milk products such as cheese, curd in low quantity. For your tea or coffee, use plant-based milk such as almond milk or coconut milk.
Restrict sugary foods and foods made with refined flour. Diets high in carbohydrates and low in healthy fat may raise insulin levels. Choose complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and salads to prevent an insulin spike instead.
Exercise aids in the reduction of blood sugar levels. If you have PCOS, increasing your daily activity and following a regular exercise program may help you treat or even prevent insulin resistance, keep your weight under control, and avoid diabetes.
Recent research has discovered a link between PCOS and plastic containers as well as packaging material. Make the switch to non-plastic products. You can carry steel or copper utensils instead of plastic water bottles or storage boxes.
PCOS can result in a great deal of physical and mental stress. You may experience frequent mood swings, which can have an impact on the quality of your daily life. Being stressed all the time can cause breakouts on your face as well as hair loss. As a result, manage stress to avoid its negative effects on your skin and hair. There are numerous techniques available to help you calm your nerves, such as meditation and yoga, to name a few. Make time for yourself every day to do something you enjoy.
Just remember, if you notice these changes in your hair or skin, visit your dermatologist immediately to know the root cause and treatment options for the issue. Let’s stay informed and educated.
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