Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders in women of reproductive age (15–49 years). Worldwide, nearly 116 million women (3.4%) are afflicted with this syndrome and in India, around 10% of women are grappling with this syndrome, however, there is a dearth of proper published data on the same.1
Emerging evidence suggests that PCOS predisposes a woman to a significantly higher risk of impaired glucose tolerance, obesity, dyslipidemia, and chronic complications such as diabetes, endometrial cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease.2
September is the PCOS Awareness Month
The month of September is dedicated to disseminate awareness and talk about PCOS extensively to help improve the lives of those affected by PCOS by helping them overcome their symptoms as well as prevent and reduce their risks for life-threatening related disorders.3
Talking about PCOS is even more critical since women with PCOS are highly susceptible to COVID-19.
PCOS symptoms and identified risk factors for severe COVID-19 overlap
Compelling emerging data is suggesting the risk of severe COVID-19 with multiple indications such as ethnicity predisposition, hyper-inflammation, low vitamin D levels, and hyperandrogenism, all of which are strongly linked with PCOS. Furthermore, this common female population also has a markedly high prevalence of multiple cardio-metabolic conditions including type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, which may significantly exacerbate the risk for poor COVID-19-related outcomes.
This significant overlap of risk factors for both PCOS and COVID-19 must be taken up seriously in the clinical practice because women with PCOS often receive dysregulated care from multiple healthcare services. Educating women with PCOS regarding the probable risks from COVID-19 and how this may affect their management is also essential.4
PCOS should be recognized as one of the risk factors for COVID-19
PCOS goes beyond reproductive health and yet, has long been dismissed as a women’s health issue. The risk for COVID-19 increases with the metabolic risk. Researchers and healthcare workers have always looked at obesity and type 2 diabetes and hypertension and heart disease as risk factors, but they have not looked at PCOS in-depth systematically. According to the experts, women with PCOS must be recognized as potentially a high-risk group and should be offered prophylactic and management support.
Supporting your loved one with PCOS
Your daughter, sister, wife, friend, or partner may be very discouraged if she has been diagnosed with PCOS, but with a supportive loved one around, the journey is much more manageable. As symptoms of the condition can be distressing and she will need you for support, ensure you have a support system in place to get the support you need.
Living with a chronic disease is draining, but can also lead partners, friends, siblings to communicate at a deeper level in comparison to those who are not exposed to these challenges. With an understanding of a few basics of PCOS, you can easily support your loved one navigate this disorder and even help them overcome the symptoms to lead a healthy life. 5
The bottom line
The key to managing PCOS is managing lifestyle. While the lockdown and work from home scenario brought down by the pandemic have thrown many people away from their routine, one cannot indulge in a sedentary lifestyle and expect PCOS to be in control. One must walk for at least 30-60 minutes every day, include some strength training, yoga, and meditation in the daily routine to not only keep the weight in check but also ensure mental clarity. Besides, it is important to be mindful of what one eats.
In addition, women with PCOS are at an increased risk of COVID-19 infection and should be specifically encouraged to adhere to COVID-appropriate behavior to mitigate their risk of contracting the virus.