GynaecologicaL Conditions To Be Aware Of.

Below are the three gynaecological disorders every woman should be aware of.

1.      Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

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Polycystic means “many cysts”, in PCOS small fluid-filled sacs grow inside the ovaries. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects how a woman’s ovaries work due to low levels of oestrogen and progesterone and high levels of androgen (male hormone) being produced.

The 3 main features of PCOS are:

  • High levels of androgen – may cause excess growth of facial or body hair (hirsutism)

  • Irregular periods – due to ovaries not regularly releasing eggs (ovulation)

  • Polycystic ovaries – ovaries become enlarged and contain fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs

Symptoms of PCOS:

The most common symptoms for PCOS are:

  • Irregular periods - lack of ovulation prevents the uterine lining from shedding every month, women with PCOS get fewer periods than usual

  • Acne - high levels of androgen can make the skin oilier than usual, causing breakouts on areas such as the chest, upper back and face

  • Headaches - hormone imbalance/ changes can trigger headaches in some women

  • Difficulty in conceiving

  • Excessive growth of facial or body hair (hirsutism)

Cause of PCOS:

To date, the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, however the following factors have been suggested;

  • Genetics - PCOS can run in families

  • Insulin resistance - insulin controls the sugar levels in our bodies, women with PCOS are often resistant to insulin in their body and produce high levels insulin which contributes to increased production of other hormones such as testosterone

Treatment for PCOS:

There is currently no cure for PCOS, however the following treatments can help manage the symptoms;

  • Surgery - laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) can be a treatment option for fertility problems associated with PCOS.

  • Lifestyle changes - exercising regularly and eating a healthy balanced diet. A normal body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9, BMI is a measurement of your weight in relation to your height, use the BMI calculator to find out whether your BMI is in the healthy range.

  • Medication - contraceptive pills can be used to induce regular periods and clomifene is usually recommended for women with PCOS who are trying to conceive.

2.      Endometriosis

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Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other parts of the female reproductive system such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Symptoms of endometriosis:

The main symptoms for endometriosis are:

  • Pain during or after sex

  • Lower abdominal pain or pelvic pain – usually worse during your period

  • Severe period pain

  • Difficulty in conceiving

  • Pain when urinating during your period

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding

Cause of endometriosis:

To date, the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown however the following factors have been factors have been suggested;

  • Genetics – endometriosis can run in families

  • Endometrium cells spreading through the body’s lymphatic system or bloodstream

  • Retrograde menstruation – part of the womb lining flows up through the fallopian tubes and embeds itself on other organs such as the pelvis, rather than leaving the body as a period

 Treatment for endometriosis:

There is currently no cure for endometriosis, however the followings treatments can help manage the symptoms;

  • Surgery - removal of patches from the endometriosis tissue or hysterectomy (removal of the womb)

  • Contraceptives or hormone medication - contraceptives such as the combined pill, intrauterine system (IUS) and hormone medication such as gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues

  • Painkillers - paracetamol or ibuprofen

3.      Fibroids

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Fibroids also known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas are non-cancerous growths that grow in or around the womb and are made up of fibrous tissue and muscle. Fibroids are common in women of the African-Caribbean background, with 1 in 3 women developing them at some point in her life.

Symptoms of fibroids:

A number of women are unaware they have fibroids and sometimes they are discovered during a routine gynaecological exam as fibroids don’t often cause symptoms. Women (1 in 3) with symptoms for fibroids may experience;

  • Lower back pain

  • Pain or discomfort during sex

  • Abdominal pain

  • Heavy or painful menstrual periods

  • Frequent need to urinate

Cause of fibroids:

The cause of fibroids is unknown, however they have been linked to the oestrogen hormone, a female hormone produced by the ovaries. The link with oestrogen is due to fibroids developing during a woman’s reproductive years when the oestrogen levels are high and tend to shrink when oestrogen levels are low, which is usually after menopause.

Treatment of fibroids:

Various treatments for fibroids include;

  • Surgery - hysterectomy (removal of the womb - recommended if you have large fibroids and don’t wish to have kids), myomectomy (removal of fibroids from the wall of your womb - an alternative to hysterectomy if you wish to have kids) may be considered if your symptoms are severe and medication has been ineffective.

  • Medication - oral progestogen, contraceptive pills or tranexamic acid can be used to reduce heavy menstrual periods. Gonadotropin releasing hormone analogues (GnRHas) can be used to help shrink fibroids.

Speak to your doctor or gynaecologist if you have been experiencing any of the symptoms linked with the above conditions and treatment options available for you.

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