Young women afflicted with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), rarely recognise symptoms of the disease which include excess hair growth and infertility. They suffer from immense psychological trauma before finally opting for treatment.
According to doctors, women of reproductive age suffer from hirsutism which is male pattern of hair growth on the face and abdomen and menstrual irregularities associated with polycystic ovaries which may lead to infertility, obesity and acne.
Most of the symptoms carry a stigma causing not only frustration in young women but also leading to delay in treatment.
Three sisters, residents of a village near Pir Sohawa, are currently undergoing treatment for the disease. “I have recently done my graduation and want to look for a job but excessive hair on my face has shattered my confidence. I don’t have the courage to bear with nasty comments anymore,” said Ainee*, one of the sisters, while talking to The Express Tribune.
Her sister Hira* said, “Though I’m married with two kids, I still lack the confidence to actively participate in social gatherings and like my younger sister face constant criticism.
Many people ask me how I got married with such manly looks.” They said they had tried laser therapy but it did not work.
Dr Riffat Shaheen, Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Polyclinic Hospital said this disease is most likely to occur in women between the ages of 16 and 25. “I have examined one or two patients with PCOS a month over the past decade, but a steep increase in the number of cases has raised the question whether this should be labelled as an epidemic,” she said.
There is evidence, according to the Dr Shaheen, that this is a genetic disease but there are many other reasons also which mainly includes consuming shaver hens which are given artificial feed made up of steroids, obesity and junk food. Polycystic Ovary (PCO) is a very initial stage of the disease and symptom-free, she added.
It is labelled a ‘syndrome’ when associated with symptoms like hirsutism, acne, menstrual abnormality and weight gain. Therefore, every woman diagnosed with PCO will not develop PCOS. In fact, exposure to excess androgen which is a male hormone is a predisposing factor for converting PCO into PCOS.
PCO remains undetected unless a pelvic ultrasound is carried out, but PCOS may be diagnosed early because of its symptoms.
Dr Shireen Ansari, head of dermatology at Polyclinic Hospital, said she receives a large number of girls with this disease most of whom are unaware of it. “Their mothers are depressed that if the symptoms persist, they would not be able to marry off their daughters,” she said. The treatment goes side by side with gynaecological and skin treatment while some opt for laser treatment.
Although, this disease is not completely curable, its course may be modified and complications prevented or controlled by changing the environment and lifestyle. Therefore, awareness should be created among women, said the doctors.
*Names changed to protect identity
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.