Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Treatment
Learn to recognize the symptoms so you are in the best position to seek help from your doctor to managing your PCOS.
While there is no cure for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), there are many ways to manage symptoms including both lifestyle changes and medication, if necessary.
Are You Trying to Get Pregnant?
Approximately, 80% of women who experience ovulation dysfunction infertility also have PCOS, according to Mark P. Trolice, MD, director of Fertility CARE: The IVF Center, and a clinical associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
"Since polycystic ovary syndrome affects up to 1 in 5 women with up to 70% going undiagnosed, if you have been experiencing irregular (or no) periods and/or noticed unwanted hair growth on your face or chest, you might want to ask your doctor to check you for PCOS," Dr. Trolice tells EndocrineWeb.
"This is particularly important since one-third of women typically wait more than two years to seek medical attention and then more than half end up seeking answers from up to three health professional before receiving a correct diagnosis," he says.
Once the issue of PCOS is addressed, you will be able to work with your doctor to consider pregnancy.
First things first. If you suscept you have PCOS, getting a proper diagnosis will assure that you receive appropriate guidance to improve your symptoms and manage your disease. This is particularly important since early treatment can help reduce your risk for long-term complications.
Lifestyle Patterns Are an Important Place to Start
As you are likely keenly aware, the impact of losing even 5% of your current body weight—admittedly, easier said, then done—can help restore more regular periods, improve cholesterol levels, and may even lessen further acne and hair growth.
- Regular exercise can help you lose weight as well as reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Thirty minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day has been shown to reduce the risk for development of diabetes and the metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors that increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes)
- Adjusting your diet to limited processed foods is helpful in many ways, including weight loss. The most common processed foods include:
- Cakes, cookies, and other baked goods
- Canned or frozen foods high in sodium
- Snack foods like potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels
- Fast food meal items
- Fried foods
- Hot dogs, most chicken nuggets, and prepared luncheon meats
- Breads, pastas, crackers and other foods made from white flour instead of whole grains or alternative flours like chickpea or lentil.
- Soda (eg, cola, pop, soft drink)
- Sugary breakfast cereals (ie, any cereal with more than 5 gm of sugar per serving.)
- White rice (black, brown, or wild rice are better choices)
- Talking to a registered dietitian may help you make better food choices that may help with weight loss.
- Birth control pills: An oral contraceptive pill containing both estrogen and progestin can help control symptoms long term. The pill decreases testosterone levels in your body, which reduces excessive hair growth and acne, helps get your period on a more regular cycle, and may reduce your risk for endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus). You could also use the vaginal ring or skin patch containing both estrogen and progestin.
- Diabetes medication: Female teens and women with PCOS who have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, and do not respond to diet changes and exercise may benefit from taking the diabetes medication metformin. This drug also may help regulate your period if you have PCOS and cannot take birth control pills. Metformin is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for these purposes.
- Agents to reduce hair growth: Medications that block the effects of testosterone on the skin (such as spironolactone, flutamide, and finasteride) may help reduce excess hair growth. These agents should not be used by women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant as they have been linked to birth defects. A cream containing the medication eflornithine also is available to slow hair growth on the face. In addition, you can remove excess hair growth with wax, shaving, electrolysis, or laser treatment.
- Infertility treatment: Clomiphene can be used to help stimulate ovulation (help your ovaries release eggs) in women with problems getting pregnant.
Consult with your doctor to see what treatments are right for you. Choose a doctor who specializes in hormone problems (an endocrinologist) or women’s health (a gynecologist or primary care physician).
Continue Reading: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) in Female Teenagers and Women
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Frequently Asked Questions. FAQ121: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. August 2011. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/for%20patients/faq121.ashx. Accessed February 3, 2014.
The Endocrine Society. Clinical Practice Guidelines: Diagnosis and Treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. December 2013. Available at: http://www.endocrine.org/education-and-practice-management/clinical-practice-guidelines. Accessed February 3, 2014.
Hormone Health Network®. Fact Sheet. PCOS: What teens need to know. September 2013. Available at: http://www.hormone.org/questions-and-answers/2013/pcos-for-teens. Accessed February 3, 2014.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women's Health. (2010). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Fact Sheet. March 2010. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html. Accessed February 3, 2014.