In some ways, polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is a mysterious condition. For example, doctors and researchers aren’t sure exactly how many women have the condition, and think that it’s somewhere between 2-27% of women between the ages of 15 and 44. However, we do know a bit about how the condition works, as well as how to limit its effects on your day-to-day life.
Irregular menses is one of several potential symptoms of PCOS, and Dr. Parisa Pourzand has diagnosed many patients with PCOS who originally came to her office wondering why their period was never regular. In this post, we discuss other symptoms you may have if you have PCOS, as well as what sorts of treatments are available.
Hormones and ovulation
When you have PCOS, you have a hormone problem, which, in turn, causes problems in your ovaries, and often with your metabolism. In PCOS, you have more androgens, or male sex hormones, than you should, or not enough female reproductive hormones, and that interferes with ovulation.
Each month one or other of your ovaries should release a mature egg. It travels from your ovary through your fallopian tube to your uterus, where it may be fertilized by a sperm. If it’s not fertilized, it is shed away during your period.
If you have too much male hormone and not enough female hormone, your ovary may not release an egg when it should. Sometimes this causes small cysts, and those cysts produce androgens. Not all women with PCOS develop cysts, though.
PCOS and metabolism
Often, women who have PCOS also have a condition called insulin resistance, which raises their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. When you have insulin resistance, your body produces insulin, but doesn’t use it efficiently.
Insulin resistance can lead to weight gain, and being overweight is another risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, about half of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by the age of 40.
Along with irregular periods and weight gain, you may experience other symptoms if you have PCOS, including:
- Hirsutism - excess hair growth
- Thinning hair - male pattern baldness
- Darkening skin - especially in the creases of your neck, your groin, or under your breasts
- Skin tags - in armpits or on your neck
You may have only some of these symptoms. Not all women have the same symptoms with PCOS, just as not all women develop ovarian cysts.
Treatments for PCOS
Most of the time Dr. Pourzand recommends a combination of lifestyle changes and medication to control the symptoms of PCOS. Since type 2 diabetes is a serious concern, make sure that your diet is healthy and that you’re enjoying an adequate amount of physical activity. Weight loss, if you’re overweight, can help reduce your PCOS symptoms, as well as improve insulin resistance and lower your risk of developing diabetes.
In some cases, medication that causes ovulation can help. Some risks are associated with such medications. Dr. Pourzand discusses your options and any potential risks with you before making recommendations about treatment.
Hormonal birth control pills may help regulate your menstrual period, as well as lower your androgen levels. Depending on your situation, medication for diabetes could be helpful in decreasing insulin resistance. Medications to address acne or hair growth may also be appropriate.
Get tailored advice
One of the most important aspects of treatment for PCOS is working with a provider who makes suggestions and recommendations based on your specific circumstances, like Dr. Pourzand. Many factors, such as your age, your symptoms, whether you want to become pregnant or not, among others, are important considerations in deciding how to treat PCOS.
If you have irregular periods, or suspect you may have PCOS, schedule your appointment with Dr. Pourzand today. She has two offices for your convenience, and you can schedule online or by phone for the one that works best for you.