Obesity is contributing to a number of health problems for children, including hormonal imbalance.
Dr. Sujana Reddy, a pediatric endocrinologist with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, says more than 3 million children are diagnosed with obesity every year. As the child grows, increased obesity can cause hormonal problems. “Polycystic ovary syndrome, it’s also called PCOS, it’s a very common condition in females associated with hormonal imbalance.”
Dr. Reddy says PCOS is diagnosed in about 10 percent of teenage girls. “Most patients that come to us are either overweight or obese. So, lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment. If you see a girl with PCOS gaining weight, the symptoms can get worse.”
Patients may have excess body hair, severe acne, and irregular menstrual cycles. These symptoms are triggered by the excess amount of male hormone being produced in teenage girls. “It is what we call insulin resistance, so being insulin resistant means their bodies are unable to utilize insulin the way it should, and it starts making an excess of insulin than usual. This high insulin levels stimulates the ovaries to produce testosterone,” said Dr. Reddy.
Children can be genetically predisposed to PCOS but it can also be triggered by an unhealthy lifestyle. “They can have hair on their face, chest, lower back, and these are really concerning for the girls and sometimes they can have low self-esteem, depression, and social difficulties,” said Dr. Reddy.
PCOS is a lifelong problem but doctors say there are treatments like birth control pills to help regulate the hormones. Lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, weight loss, and increased exercise can also help control the symptoms.
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