Embry Womens Health
What is PCOS?
PCOS is caused by an imbalance of the reproductive hormones that control the development of eggs in the ovaries. During a normal menstrual cycle, an ovary releases an egg each month that travels down a fallopian tube to the uterus. PCOS causes fluid-filled sacs, or cysts, to form in the ovaries. This combination of hormone imbalance and ovarian cysts can hamper the normal development of eggs and interfere with ovulation, or the monthly release of eggs. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in women, but it usually responds very well to treatment.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms can vary greatly in intensity but often include:
- Irregular periods that might occur less than 8 times a year or occur more frequently than is typical, such as every 21 days or less
- Cessation of menstrual periods
- Appearance of coarse, dark hair on the face, chest, and other areas where men typically have hair
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- Skin tags in the armpits and neck area
- Thinning hair that resembles male-pattern baldness
- Darkening of the skin underneath the breasts and in the groin
What are some of the health concerns related to PCOS?
Women with PCOS are at higher risk for:
- High blood pressure
- Elevated LDL or “bad” cholesterol and decreased HDL or “good” cholesterol
- Sleep apnea, which also raises your risks of diabetes and high blood pressure
- Depression and anxiety
- Cancer of the endometrial tissue lining the uterus
What are the treatments?
The nurse practitioners at Embry Women’s Health use a combination of treatments that focus on an individual’s symptoms, desire to have children, and other potential health concerns.
If you’re not trying to get pregnant, medications for PCOS may include:
- Hormonal birth control to regulate your menstrual cycle, decrease acne, and lessen unwanted hair growth on the face and body
- Anti-androgen medications that help reduce hair loss on the scalp, reduce facial and body hair, and improve the appearance of acne by blocking the effect of androgens, or male sex hormones
- Metformin to lower blood sugar and androgen levels
If you want to get pregnant, treatment may include:
- Recommendations for weight loss with guidance regarding a healthy diet and increased activity
- Diagnostic studies to rule out other causes of infertility in you and your partner
- Medication to improve ovulation, such as Clomid