Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome on ‘staggering’ rise in UAE

Though there isn’t a cure for PCOS, it is certainly very treatable and can be controlled by simple lifestyle changes and medication.

By Staff Reporter

Published: Sun 25 May 2014, 9:14 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:57 PM

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) has become more frequent in conversations of late and yet awareness of the disorder lags far behind its rapidly increasing incidence, a senior gynaecologist has opined.

What is really alarming about PCOS, particularly in the UAE, is that its prevalence is significantly higher when compared to world figures. “Reasons for this may be attributed to the luxurious, over-indulgent and sedentary lifestyle that dominates in the region,” said Dr Pankaj Shrivastav, director of Conceive, a Gynaecology and Fertility hospital in Sharjah.

In a study conducted by Dr Shrivastav recently, 501 women from the UAE were sampled. The women were of South Asian, Gulf Arab and Caucasian ethnicities. Of the South Asian group, 42.5 per cent; of the Gulf Arab group 39.38 per cent; and from the Caucasian group 23.53 per cent were found to have PCOS.

Among the patients with PCOS from the South Asian group, 96.5 per cent, and from the Gulf Arab group 80.9 per cent were found to have insulin resistance. “These are staggeringly high figures when compared to the prevalence of insulin resistance in PCOS women as reported in world literature (standing at 50-70 per cent).”

A study done in 2012 in Dubai also showed PCOS as the leading cause of infertility among women.

Generally speaking, PCOs is a disorder whereby many cysts form within a woman’s ovaries, resulting in irregular menstrual cycles and decreased fertility. The underlying cause of PCOS is a significant hormonal imbalance that often appears to have its root in problems with insulin metabolism.

Insulin is the hormone that aids metabolism of glucose (sugar) in our body, explained Dr Shrivastav. Some women are born with a defect in the ability of insulin to control glucose levels and this, in turn, results in an overproduction of insulin to avoid the development of excessive levels of glucose. Overproduction of insulin causes the ovaries to overproduce androgens or male hormones.

“Excessive insulin alone puts patients at high risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. The excess androgens manifest as cosmetic annoyances and that vary from nominal to extreme,” he said. “These include excess hair or Hirsutism, thinning of scalp hair, weight gain, skin abnormalities like skin tags or darkening and thickening of skin and acne. Such is the effect of these ‘annoyances’ that it may result in women falling prey to depression and anxiety.”

“Women whose mothers had PCOS should watch carefully for symptoms and visit their physician regularly,” advised Dr Shrivastav.

Obesity is also said to be a cause of women developing PCOS. Also there is evidence to suggest that some ethnicities have a genetic predisposition to the disorder. For example, it is much more commonly seen in South Asian women than women of Caucasian origin. “These figures are of great concern for women living in the UAE and who wish to conceive children naturally.

“Together with stressful and hectic careers resulting in women putting off child-bearing to a later age, the growing PCOS in the region will mean that more and more couples will have to seek infertility treatment.

“Though there isn’t a cure for PCOS, it is certainly very treatable and can be controlled by simple lifestyle changes and medication. I cannot emphasise the importance of diet and exercise enough for women with PCOS,” said Dr Shrivastav, adding that weight loss improves the hormonal condition. “Even a five per cent body weight loss from 100kg to 95kg can make a woman who was not ovulating, ovulatory.”


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