Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

A polycystic ovarian syndrome diagnosis may show up after investigating unwanted symptoms like facial hair growth, irregular periods or acne. Our caring gynecologists and endocrinologists know how discouraging this can be. The upside is that we also know how to find the perfect combination of new medicines and procedures to minimize symptoms and maximize your confidence.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome causes an imbalance in your estrogen and progesterone levels. This can affect your menstrual cycle, fertility, cardiac function and appearance. Up to five million women have this condition. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help control symptoms. Birth control pills or hormone replacement may also be prescribed. For advanced polycystic ovarian syndrome, you may need surgery.

Treatments for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a shared challenge that involves your endocrine and reproductive systems. How it affects you can be completely unique to its effect on the next woman. Treatment takes two paths. One path is treating visible symptoms that affect your confidence, like weight gain or acne. If you want to start a family, you're also concerned with how it may affect fertility.

At Spectrum Health, our urogynecologists and endocrinologists offer the most medically advanced non-surgical and surgical treatments for polycystic ovarian syndrome. From targeted diet and exercise plans that will make a real difference, to medications that address specific symptoms, we can help you feel better and manage your condition more comfortably. Learn more here.

Acne Treatment
Retinoids, antibacterial agents and antibiotics can be used to treat the acne that is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Diet and Nutrition Counseling
A healthy weight and regular exercise can minimize many symptoms. Even a weight loss of five percent can help you feel better.

Hair Removal Treatment
Excess body hair is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Depilatory creams and/or electrolysis may be recommended to slow hair growth or remove it completely.

Oral Contraceptives
The hormones in oral contraceptives can correct many symptoms: irregular periods, high levels of androgens (like testosterone) in your body, acne and excess hair growth.

PCOS Surgery
If infertility is a problem due to polycystic ovarian syndrome, minimally-invasive surgery can improve your ovarian function by reducing the number of small cysts where they may interfere with fertility.

What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which ovaries have many cysts (fluid-filled sacs). It’s also called Stein-Leventhal syndrome. PCOS is a disorder related to the body’s hormones. For example, the pituitary gland, which is at the base of the brain, makes hormones that tell the body how to work. One of these hormones tells the ovary when to release an egg. When the pituitary gland is overactive and makes too much hormone, ovaries get cysts.

PCOS usually starts in women younger than 30 and affects 5% to 10% of women.

What Causes Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

The cause of changes in hormone levels isn’t clear. One possibility is genetic reasons that cause PCOS in overweight or obese women.

What Are the Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

The most common symptom is irregular periods. They occur a few times a year, sometimes only once a year, and sometimes not at all. Bleeding can be very light or very heavy. Other symptoms include acne; hair loss on the head; too much hair on the face (can be thick and dark), chest, or stomach; high cholesterol levels; high blood pressure; deep voice; oily skin; dark rash on the neck, underarm, or groin; trouble getting pregnant (infertility); depression; and weight gain.

How Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Diagnosed?

The health care provider will take a medical history, do a physical and pelvic examination, and order blood tests to measure hormone levels and rule out other illnesses. Blood pressure and blood glucose and cholesterol levels will be measured. The health care provider will also order ultrasonography of the ovaries to see how many cysts they have. The health care provider may suggest a visit to a gynecologist (a health care provider who specializes in female reproductive health) and to an endocrinologist (a specialist in hormone disorders).

How Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Treated?

Treatment depends on how severe symptoms are and if pregnancy is wanted. Overweight women will need to diet and exercise. Weight loss can help many women with PCOS.

Medicine can be given to make periods more regular, control other symptoms, and help in becoming pregnant. Surgery (laparoscopic ovarian wedge resection) is sometimes performed to decrease hormone release from the ovaries.

High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, if present, should also be treated.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome:
  • DO follow your doctor’s directions and take your medicine.
  • DO tell your health care provider about your medicines, including prescription and nonprescription drugs.
  • DO tell your health care provider if you’re pregnant or trying to have a baby.
  • DO see your health care provider regularly. Get a pelvic examination every year.
  • DO try to lose weight by eating a healthy diet and exercising.
  • DO call your health care provider right away or go to the emergency room if you have very heavy vaginal bleeding or severe stomach pain.
  • DON’T stop taking your medicine just because you feel better.
  • DON’T abuse alcohol.
  • DON’T use any other medicines, including herbal supplements, without asking your health care provider first.

Contact the following source:

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association
    Tel: (877) 755-7276
    Website: http://www.pcosupport.org
  • The Endocrine Society
    Tel: (888) 363-6274
    Website: http://www.endo-society.org

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor