Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the many medical conditions that “whisper,” only getting properly diagnosed when it has already progressed to advanced stages when PCOS solutions and interventions may not be as effective. This is because symptoms associated with PCOS are commonplace – irregular menstruation and the resulting infertility, weight gain, facial hair, oily skin, and elevated blood pressure, to mention a few. Therefore, to correctly diagnose the condition, and accurately provide PCOS solutions, it is important to keep in mind that the condition manifests in various ways. Each symptom should not be assessed individually; rather, the symptoms should be evaluated as a cluster.
When three or more of the following symptoms are experienced, a doctor’s visit may be in order:
- Absent or irregular menstruation;
- Unreasonable weight gain;
- Dandruff and/or male-pattern baldness;
- Facial hair;
- Oily and darkened skin;
- Elevated blood pressure and insulin levels;
- High levels of cholesterol;
- Numerous (hence the prefix “poly”) but small cysts in the ovaries.
Although the syndrome primarily features multiple ovarian cysts (due to hormonal imbalances), not all women who have small lumps in their ovaries suffer from PCOS. It is the constellation of symptoms along with multiple cysts and the absence or irregularity of menstruation that PCOS may be diagnosed. And even though infertility maybe the gravest of all complaints, PCOS is not a reproductive disorder; rather, it is an endocrinal malfunction. An effective treatment program therefore is not limited to addressing infertility alone (although for most women this is paramount); rather, multiple PCOS solutions may be necessary.
Since the condition is endocrinal in nature, hormonal intervention, in most cases, is required. As mentioned, the treatment program has to be implemented against a symptom at a time; no cure-all solution has thus far been developed. The following is a list of treatments that correspond with the symptoms:
- Progesterone therapy to induce menstrual flow for women who suffer from irregular monthly periods;
- Birth control therapy produces side effects that bring on regular ovulation. Regular ovulation results to regular menstruation;
- A diuretic called spironolactone reverses acne problems and facial hair (or hair growth in general). Creams that contain eflornithine slow down growth of facial hair. Where neither is effective, electrolysis may provide a more permanent solution;
- Dandruff, oily skin, male-pattern baldness, and excessive hair result from too much male hormones (androgens) produced by the female body (both sexes produce androgens and estrogens; the masculinity or femininity is determined by which sex hormone is produced more). Anti-androgen therapy or pills could be effective to minimize these secondary male characteristics;
- Clomiphine is advised for women who desire to get pregnant. The drug induces ovulation; hence, egg production and the resulting monthly menstruation. Infertility among PCOS sufferers is largely due to lack of hormones that stimulate egg production;
- For women who fail to conceive using clomiphine therapy, gonadotropin hormone (hormones that stimulate the gonads, or egg-producing organ) injection may be in order. This is a more aggressive treatment that should be administered by experienced endocrinologists;
- The drug metformin regulates elevated levels of insulin. This drug also helps reduce the appearance of other symptoms like irregular periods, weight gain and type 2 diabetes;
Obesity in PCOS should be managed like any other weight gain problem in general. Weight loss efforts help in preventing complications – where there are fewer complications, there will be lesser need for multiple PCOS solutions.