Living With PCOS: Everything You Need to Know
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that originates in a woman's endocrine system. PCOS can cause your ovaries to enlarge. This is because the ovaries develop multiple small fluid-filled sacs called follicles. Usually, your gynecologist can pick this up during a routine ultrasound, especially if you have reported symptoms of PCOS. There’s no known cure for PCOS, but there are plenty of treatments that reduce "flare-ups" and long-term complications.
What Causes PCOS and What Are the Symptoms?
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it is basically the result of a hormone imbalance. Doctors have found a correlation between insulin resistance and PCO. It seems that excess insulin tends to be related to excess androgen, a male hormone, and many women with PCOS have too much of both. You’ll most likely notice signs of PCOS before your gynecologist does. These include the following:
- Irregular periods. This is the most common symptom of PCOS. Usually, menstrual cycles are more or less around 28 days long. If your menstrual cycle is frequently longer than 35 days or you have fewer than eight periods a year, you may have PCOS. Some women may go without a period for several months, while others have prolonged periods.
- Too much of a male hormone called testosterone. This manifests as physical symptoms like facial hair, moderate to severe acne, and balding.
- Cysts. These are a red flag for PCOS. If you've reported symptoms of PCOS to your gynecologist, he or she will want to perform an ultrasound. The ultrasound will show any cysts or follicles in your ovaries.
How Is PCOS Treated?
Because there’s no cure for PCOS, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and preventing complications. Left untreated, PCOS can eventually lead to infertility, so it's important to seek treatment as soon as you can. Your doctor may recommend a diet to lose excess weight, which will help with PCOS. He or she may also prescribe medication like birth control or other hormones to regulate your menstrual cycle. If you can't take birth control, your doctor may recommend a progesterone treatment cycle or a medication to make you more sensitive to your own insulin.
Lastly, if you're trying to get pregnant, anti-estrogen medications may help you ovulate. Other treatments include follicle-stimulating-hormones (FSH), which are also used to stimulate ovulation. There are other treatments designed to help with the physical symptoms of PCOS. Medication that decreases androgen, the male hormone, will lessen the occurrence of facial hair growth and acne.
If you’re living with symptoms of PCOS, talk to your gynecologist about treatment options. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call us at (615) 329-6745.