Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder in women that disrupts the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries. Some PCOS symptoms include infertility, missed periods, weight problems and acne.
“Treatment for PCOS depends on the goals and symptoms of the individual woman,” says Jessica H. Lemmons, MD, FACOG, obstetrician and gynecologist, Saint Francis Medical Partner.
When a woman has PCOS, her body overproduces sex hormones that prevent sacs in the ovaries from releasing eggs. The sacs bunch together and form cysts on the outsides of the ovaries.
In many cases, lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment for PCOS such as establishing a regular exercise routine and eating a healthy diet. For some women, losing a small amount of weight can balance hormones and reduce symptoms.
Medications that can help women with PCOS include those that:
- Regulate the menstrual cycle. If a woman misses periods, the endometrial lining of the uterus builds up over time, putting her at risk for endometrial cancer. Some hormonal pills can induce a period, including metformin, a drug used for Type 2 diabetes that improves insulin resistance and can lead to regular menstrual cycles.
- Induce ovulation. For women who want to become pregnant, medications such as Clomid can stimulate the ovaries to release an egg.
- Reduce hair growth. Some women with PCOS experience excessive hair growth on the face, arms and chest, and some medications can reduce that problem.
“PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women,” says Lemmons. “Fortunately, we have many options for treatment.”
“For patients who struggle with weight gain,” Lemmons continues, “we work with them to develop a plan for a healthier lifestyle, which will work to their benefit for the rest of their life.”