Have you ever heard of PCOS? Did you know that this condition affects more than 15% of women during childbearing years? Dr. Alexis Greene , Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist, is sharing some advice on the diagnosis and treatment of different symptoms associated PCOS, in order to create awareness for PCOS during the month of September.
PCOS is a medical condition with a diagnosis that is reached through process of elimination. When identifying PCOS in patients, our doctors are typically looking for 2 out of 3 common symptoms:
- Irregular menstrual cycles (typically long periods of time without a period) (medical term: oligo- or anovulation)
- Hyperandrogenism (high male hormone levels, either through blood work or by symptoms such as dark hair growth on the face or middle of the abdomen, acne, alopecia or significant hair loss)
- Polycystic appearing ovaries by ultrasound
The underlying cause of PCOS is thought to be due to high androgen levels and high insulin levels. Women with PCOS are also often at risk for diabetes in their future because of the typical insulin resistance that comes with PCOS.
Are you managing a PCOS diagnosis? You are not alone! PCOS is the most common underlying cause for irregular menstrual cycles. Coping with this diagnosis may be hard for some people, which can result in an increase in symptoms such as depression and anxiety. You should talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these feelings.
What to do once you are diagnosed? There are various effective treatments for the different symptoms associated with PCOS that your doctor may recommend:
- Irregular cycles – your doctor may recommend birth control pills to help regulate cycles. If you’re trying to get pregnant, there are also oral medications to help you ovulate more regularly and reliably, such as Clomid or Letrozole. Your doctor will determine if these medications are recommended for you.
- Hirsutism/dark hair growth – The most effective treatment for this is different hair removal options such as laser hair removal or waxing. In extreme cases your doctor can also prescribe medication to deter hair growth.
- Weight gain/difficulty losing weight – with insulin resistance, it is hard to process sugars and carbohydrates normally. A low carb, high protein diet can be helpful. Starting an exercise regimen is also important. These types of lifestyle changes may be most important in treating your symptoms of PCOS.
- Insulin resistance – taking a diabetes medication, such as Metformin, helps lower your insulin levels. This may also help your body ovulate more regularly if you’re trying to get pregnant.
If you feel you are exhibiting symptoms of PCOS, be sure to book an appointment with your gynecologist who can help you get the right tests to confirm a diagnosis. Depending on your health goals and test results, your gynecologist can refer you to a specialist that can assist you in managing your PCOS or other hormonal conditions.