Signs, symptoms, and treatments of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Today we’ll talk about a very common fertility topic: what is PCOS, and what are the first signs of PCOS? PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a hormonal condition that affects the ovaries. PCOS affects between 5-10% of people with ovaries, and is a common cause of infertility. While there is no cure for PCOS, there are many treatment options that can help manage the symptoms and, if desired, increase your chances of getting pregnant.
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition caused by hormonal imbalance. People with PCOS have higher levels of a hormone called androgen, and often also have trouble processing insulin properly.
About 5-10% of women between ages 15-44 have PCOS. People with a close relative (mother, sister, or aunt) with PCOS may have a higher chance of having it themselves.
Most people with PCOS get diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, after having trouble getting pregnant. PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility. It interrupts ovulation (when eggs are released into the uterus), making it harder for eggs to be fertilized and develop into embryos. In addition to infertility, PCOS has signs and symptoms that can affect your daily life, even if you are not trying to conceive.
What Are Signs of PCOS?
Some common signs and symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular or missed periods
- Extra hair growth or loss
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Insulin resistance (where your body doesn’t process insulin correctly)
- Development of cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries
“Polycystic” means many or multiple cysts, referring to the fluid-filled sacs that can grow in the ovaries. However, PCOS shows up differently from person to person, and not everyone with PCOS has cysts. In fact, some patients might have many of the listed signs of PCOS, while others might only have one or two.
PCOS also has links to other serious health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy cholesterol
- Endometrial cancer
It’s important to note that studies haven’t determined if PCOS causes these other health issues or if they are simply commonly connected. However, they are still serious health risks. If you are diagnosed with PCOS, talk to your doctor about treatment plans to lessen the risks of these associated diseases.
While there is currently no cure for PCOS, there are different lifestyle and medical treatments to manage symptoms.
Are There Treatments for PCOS?
Yes – there are several ways to help manage PCOS signs and symptoms. Certain lifestyle changes, like eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly and, in some cases, moderate weight loss can help relieve symptoms for most patients with PCOS. There are also different medication options, depending on if you are currently trying to get pregnant or not.
If you’re not trying to get pregnant, hormonal birth control can lower your chances of endometrial cancer. It can also help to reduce acne and hair growth and regulate your menstrual cycle. Your doctor may also recommend diabetes medications to help your body respond to insulin.
If you are trying to get pregnant, and are still having trouble after making lifestyle changes, your fertility doctor might recommend using hormonal medication to regulate your ovulation. This works well for many people with PCOS-related infertility, who are then able to conceive naturally. If the medications aren’t enough on their own, you can also try conceiving through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Expert Care for PCOS
Whether you’re trying to conceive with PCOS or looking to manage your signs and symptoms, we are here to help. Our team specializes in PCOS and will work with you to improve your quality of life and achieve your goals. To learn more about PCOS and treatment options, make an appointment with us today.
Additional resource: Womenshealth.com