On a daily basis, Dr Sejal Desai, consulting gynecologist at Asha Parekh Hospital, sees two to three PCOS patients below the age of 25, many of them 15 and 16 years old, and some as young as 13.
“High-stress levels, too much junk food, poor sleeping habits and lack of exercise trigger the condition in adolescent girls,” says Desai. Academic stress is a key trigger too, says Dr Kiran Coelho, consulting gynecologist at the Lilavati and Holy Family hospitals. “Thanks to the intense academic competition and peer pressure to perform, young girls are always studying and have no time for sports. This inactivity leads to obesity, which in turn exacerbates PCOS.”
That’s also where the junk food comes in, with stress eating and unhealthy diets further contributing to obesity.
Gynaecworld chairman, Dr Duru Shah, estimates that 80 per cent of PCOS cases are linked to excess weight. While gynecologists agree that the number of young women diagnosed has risen steadily over the past five years, they say detection of the disorder has also increased significantly.
“Most young women aren’t concerned by irregular periods, unless they bleed heavily,” says Dr Shah. “But they are concerned about their body image. Dermatologists are now well aware of the prevalence of PCOS and usually refer such patients to gynaecologists.”
Though there is no known cure, the syndrome can be controlled and symptoms alleviated. After taking a contraceptive pill under medical supervision, and learning to eat healthier and more regularly and sleep more regular hours, Shweta Lakhani, a 25-year-old patient, says her acne improved and her hair stopped falling. She is now trying homeopathy, as she is concerned about the pill’s long-term effects on fertility.
Concerns over fertility plague many young PCOS patients. Some, such as Karishma Dalal, are even planning to get married earlier to avoid complications. “PCOS patients find it hard to conceive after 30,” says the 27-year-old hairstylist who was detected with PCOS in Class 10. “They have to take hormonal injections and tablets which can lead to the conceiving of twins.”
Dalal speaks from experience — she is one of twins, conceived after booster shots by her mother, a PCOS patient. “Those with PCOS in the family should be extra careful. Studies suggest that it may be hereditary,” says Dr Shah.
“Though there is no known cure, you can keep it under control. Fifty per cent of the problem will be solved by losing and maintaining weight.”
Dr Coelho recommends a careful diet plan, and yoga to de-stress. The best cure, of course, is prevention, she adds.