Wouldn’t it be great if your periods came and went quietly every 28 days? Instead, you only have about eight periods a year or they’re coming far too frequently, every three weeks or so. One of the most common culprits behind irregular menstrual cycles such as these is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects up to 15% of women during their childbearing years.
At Women’s Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Fernando Otero and our team offer a wide range of services that cover most every aspect of women’s health.
In this month’s blog post, we want to focus our attention on a common reproductive issue we see in our practice — PCOS. While irregular periods are certainly a common symptom, there are many more. Let’s take a look.
PCOS — mainly a hormone issue
The name of this common gynecologic condition can be misleading because of the use of the word, “cyst,” and the lack of the word, “hormone.” At its core, PCOS is caused by an overproduction of androgens in your ovaries, which are the hormones associated with male characteristics. As a result, you’re left with an imbalance in your reproductive hormones.
While this overproduction of androgens can lead to cysts on your ovaries, it’s important to note that you can have PCOS with no cysts.
The increased levels of androgens in your system can interfere with your menstrual cycles, which is why irregular periods top the list of symptoms of PCOS, but they’re far from the only symptom.
PCOS can also lead to:
- Hirsutism (excess body and facial hair), which affects up to 70% of women with PCOS
- Infertility — PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women
- Acne or excessively oily skin
- Skin tags
- Dark patches of skin
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain and, frustratingly, difficulty losing weight
While it’s not necessarily a symptom, we want to point out that between 40% and 80% of women with PCOS also have obesity and insulin resistance.
How we go about treating PCOS depends upon your situation. If you’re actively trying to get pregnant, hormonal medications aren’t a good option. Instead, we focus on lifestyle changes, namely losing weight, if applicable, and we can also prescribe medications that encourage ovulation.
If your goal is to address your PCOS symptoms and you’re not trying to get pregnant, the frontline treatment is hormonal medication that lowers androgen hormones. Birth control pills will regulate your menstrual cycles and, in most cases, address any other symptoms of PCOS you may be experiencing.
While hormone medications work well in offsetting PCOS, it’s a good idea to make some lifestyle changes if your PCOS is related to obesity or insulin resistance. In these cases, changing your diet and exercising more are more sustainable options for improving your PCOS symptoms, and your overall health, than hormone medications.
For expert diagnosis and treatment of PCOS, we invite you to contact one of our offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, to schedule an appointment.