Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a very common problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. Women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries. That is why it is called polycystic ovary syndrome. The cysts are not harmful, but lead to hormone imbalances.
Symptoms of PCOS can start as early as a woman’s teen years and include weight gain, trouble losing weight, extra hair on the face and body, thinning hair on the scalp, irregular periods, depression and fertility problems.
Women no longer have to suffer with symptoms of PCOS, though. Treatments are available to help address its symptoms and reverse the condition.
The main risk factor for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a family history of PCOS. It can be passed down from either your mother’s or father’s side. Experts think that a combination of genes plays a part in PCOS. If you have the syndrome, your sisters and daughters have a 50 percent chance of developing PCOS too.
A family history of diabetes may also increase your risk for PCOS because of the strong relationship between diabetes and PCOS. About half of women with PCOS have a problem with how the body uses insulin. Research on this risk factor is ongoing.
In addition, the use of the seizure medicine valproate (such as Depakote) has been linked to an increased risk of PCOS.
At Draelos Metabolic Center, managing hormones is an integral part of our endocrinology effort with patients. Health professionals work with patients to make lifestyle changes that not only manage PCOS, but many other conditions related to diet and exercise, including diabetes. These lifestyle changes, along with hormone replacement and control options, can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life.
Hormones are chemical messengers that trigger many different processes, including growth and energy production. Often, the job of one hormone is to signal the release of another hormone. For reasons that are not well understood, in PCOS the hormones get out of balance. One hormone change triggers another, which changes another. This makes a vicious circle of out-of-balance hormones. For example, the body may have a problem using insulin, called insulin resistance. When the body doesn't use insulin well, blood sugar levels go up. Over time, this increases your chance of getting diabetes.
As part of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) treatment, medicines can be used to help control reproductive hormone and insulin levels. These include:
Note: Some medicines used to treat abnormal hair growth may increase your risk for insulin-related metabolic problems, so it is important to discuss medicine side effects with your health care provider.