Talking about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is essential in the conversation about menstrual health. PCOS is a complex hormonal, metabolic and reproductive disorder. A staggering 50% of the women living with PCOS are going undiagnosed. Here are a few things you should know about PCOS and diabetes. If you have been in the dark so far, we’re glad you’re taking time out for your (or your loved ones’) health and if you already know some or most of these facts, remember to share this article widely so that maximum people may benefit by knowing what affects the majority of India’s population.
1. PCOS and diabetes are related –
PCOS has been linked to an increased risk for developing several medical conditions including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, among others. This is not to alarm you, only make you more aware so that you can be well informed and take necessary steps if required.
2. PCOS is more common than you think –
PCOS affects 1 in 5 women and greatly adds to the burden of women’s health in India. PCOS symptoms may include irregular periods, acne, excess facial hair, thinning of hair or balding, problems getting pregnant, etc. If you feel you display any of these symptoms, do not hesitate and consult a healthcare professional immediately. They should be able to get you started on a course of appropriate treatment.
3. India is the diabetes capital of the world –
Diabetes is broadly of three types (there are other types too but these are the most common ones) – type 1 (autoimmune, involves taking 4-6 injections daily and testing blood 5-8 times a day, doesn’t have a cure yet. If you’re type 1 diabetic, read how to manage your sugars during your period), type 2 (lifestyle related, possible reversal, most common type of diabetes around the world and also linked to PCOS) and gestational (during pregnancy) diabetes. India pretty much leads the global diabetes epidemic with about 70 million diabetics and counting. According to estimates by the World Health Organization, India is expected to have over 98 million diabetics by 2030.
Symptoms of diabetes include extreme thirst, hunger, urination, weight gain/obesity (or extreme weight loss in the case of type 1 diabetes), blackening or pigmentation of the skin, slow healing wounds, fatigue, blurry vision (sometimes there may be no symptoms too). The easiest way to know if you have diabetes is to get your blood sugar & HbA1c tested at a reputable pathology lab, consult a doctor and they’ll be able to suggest a further course of action and medication. Remember, starting with medication if your doctor advises it is the best way to deal with the problem head on (no, insulin or metformin is not ‘addictive’ and you are not a failure). Avoiding this could cause several medical complications down the line, so it’s in your best interest to start soon.
4. Impact on mental health –
PCOS is very closely linked to various mental health issues such anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and even suicide. In a society where there is great emphasis on the way women ‘look’, not being able to look conventionally feminine enough (PCOS may lead to excessive facial hair, weight gain, pigmentation, hair thinning or baldness etc) to fit in to the often impossible and obnoxious social constructs of beauty is extremely burdensome and distressing for women and young girls living with PCOS and naturally this results in a great deal of psychological distress.
Mental health is the most ignored aspect of living with a physical disease or condition. At Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation, we run an app based helpline for diabetes and mental health, called the Blue Circle Buddy Project. This is a community led, peer support system where trained, multilingual volunteers living with diabetes and other medical conditions are available to talk about psychosocial issues that people with medical conditions live with, everyday. We are here to hear you, download the Blue Circle Diabetes app on Android or iOS and schedule a call on our helpline! You are not alone.
5. Catch ‘em young – Early diagnosis & treatment of PCOS is very essential. Since it is an emerging health problem during adolescence as well, therefore promotion of healthy lifestyles and early interventions at school level are required to prevent future morbidities. You might be aware that the government runs a basic menstrual health programme in schools. Since PCOS is also a menstrual health issue and growing at an alarming rate, don’t you think it makes sense for the government to add a unit on awareness, prevention and treatment of PCOS (and diabetes) to the existing MH programme in schools?
Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation, a registered NGO runs ‘Project Gaia’, which is an initiative to empower women & girls with diabetes in India & in collaboration with Youth Ki Awaaz we demand that PCOS and diabetes education be added to the Menstrual Health education programme in schools in Maharashtra and eventually all over India.
Please share your experiences and thoughts through this survey (any age, gender, medical history or location is fine) which will help us approach the government with data & demand the inclusion of a PCOS & diabetes module in the Menstrual Health programmes in educational institutions in the country. Fill & share the survey and let’s make a difference together: pcos.bluecircle.foundation
For any queries related to the survey email us: email@example.com or visit our website to know more about our work: https://www.bluecircle.foundation/