Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - Information and Treatment Options
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects around 10% of the female population. It can be genetically linked, meaning that if a mother had PCOS, there is a 35% chance that her daughter will have it as well. Diagnosing PCOS is important because it can increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease, diabetes, uterine cancer and hypertension.
The most common symptoms associated with this syndrome are:
- Decreased or the loss of menses
- Increased hair growth on the face or thighs
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Weight gain
The cause of PCOS is unknown, but it is believed to be the over-activity of the ovaries and the decreased activity of the insulin receptors that lead to this endocrine dysfunction.
The goals of PCOS treatment is to protect the female from future issues like hyperplasia or cancer of the uterus, development of diabetes and the inability to get pregnant spontaneously. Controlling acne and hair overgrowth may are also be treatment goals.
Weight reduction is very important for women who are obese with PCOS. For some women, weight loss alone can correct the menstrual issues and restore normal menstrual cycles and fertility.
Oral contraceptives are the 1st line of drug treatment. Taking birth control pills can help to regulate menses, thereby protecting the lining of uterus, treat acne or excessive hair growth, and balance out some of the hormone issues. If combination hormones are not a good option, monthly or quarterly doses of progesterone to help the women shed the lining that is being built up can be used.
Metformin, a diabetic medication, is used to increase the sensitivity of the body to insulin which can correct the menstrual issues and also help with weight loss for some women. Women interested in getting pregnant with insulin insensitivity will be placed on the medication to help with fertility, but possibly even continue it throughout pregnancy due to the increased risk of gestational diabetes.
Occasionally a laparoscopic surgery can be performed to help with restoration of ovulation or menses as well. For most women with PCOS, surgery is not needed.