Nineteen-year-old Raya (not her real name) loves to upload selfies on social media. Like any other teenager, she also enjoys snacking on pizzas and chocolates.
However, having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) meant she needed to follow a healthy diet and exercise regime to maintain hormonal balance and keep away diseases such as diabetes and insulin resistance.
Surely enough, a few days after she was enrolled in college, she was diagnosed with diabetes. Unable to grasp the gravity of the situation at first, her parents later took her to a nutritionist and then a counsellor.
PCOS is a health problem caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. As a result, the menstrual cycle and ovulation are hampered. The eggs released by the ovaries may be underdeveloped, or eggs are not produced at all. The ovaries may also have cysts (small fluid-filled sacs) in them.
Many patients with PCOS have trouble getting pregnant and have to rely on long-term treatments. Not only that, the hormonal imbalance can trigger depression and anxiety in women. Those with PCOS need to go for regular check-ups and treatment.
Despite being a disease that affects one out of ten women of childbearing age in the world, it is not discussed enough. Moreover, there are not enough studies on PCOS conducted in the country.
Since it is linked to infertility in women, those who live with it have to constantly fight off all the stigma surrounding it. Other than infertility, PCOS can also cause obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and even endometrial cancer.
Not only these, the hormonal imbalance often leads to extra hair growth on women's face and back, darkened skin on neck and armpits and mood swings.
Samrita (not her real name) was diagnosed with PCOs when she was 14 years old. One time, she did not get her periods for a year and a half. In her words, "I was constantly bullied at school for my weight and facial hair. I did not know how to control the mood swings; I was miserable as a teenager."
Now in her late 20s, Samrita has finally taken control of how PCOS can affect her wellbeing. She follows a strict diet and tries to work out at least five days a week. After yearlong treatment and weight loss, she is finally pregnant with her first child.
When we visited Dr Rowshan Ara Begum in her chamber in Sidhheswari, the place was brimming with female patients from all age groups. "On average, I see at least three PCOS patients every day. From girls as young as 11 to women in their 40s, this disease affects many in society. It is an alarming situation."
"Lifestyle change is a must when you are diagnosed with PCOS. We always advise our patients to steer clear from junk food and to regularly exercise. When you lose weight, you also reduce the risk of getting diabetes and insulin resistance," she said.
With almost 45 years of experience in the obstetrical and gynaecological field, the veteran doctor feels awareness on PCOS is not sufficient.
Dr Rowshan said, "It is difficult to make adolescent patients understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle. In that sense, a clinic for adolescent girls is a must."
"Handling PCOS is teamwork, it is not something than one person can deal with. There should be a doctor, a dietician, and a counsellor, along with support from family members," she added.