Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
What is PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), is a hormonal condition affecting women in their childbearing years and can prevent some women from getting pregnant. A woman may present with cysts on her overies, thus the name “polycystic” or none at all. PCOS can make it difficult to know when a woman will get her period, it can cause acne or unwanted body/facial hair. It can even increase the risk of other health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
A woman can receive treatments for the symptoms of PCOS and may even be able to get pregnant, with the assistance of medications to assist fertility.
Hormones and PCOS
When a woman is diagnosed with PCOS, essentialy her reproductive hormones are out of balance.
The body makes hormones to achieve different things. Some affect the menstrual cycle and are tied to one’s ability to have a baby.
The hormones that play a role in PCOS include:
- Androgens. They’re often called male hormones, but women have them, too. Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels.
- Insulin. The hormone that manages your blood sugar. If you have PCOS, your body might not react to insulin the way it should. So you may hear the term, insulin resistant.
- Progesterone. With PCOS, the body may not have enough of this hormone so some women might miss their periods for a long time or have trouble predicting when they’ll come.
Symptoms of PCOS
The most common PCOS symptoms are missed, irregular, infrequent, or prolonged periods. Excess androgens can cause hair loss, hair in places they don’t want it (face), and acne. Other symptoms of PCOS include:
- Darkened skin or excess skin (skin tags) on the neck or in the armpits
- Mood changes
- Pelvic pain
- Weight gain
Doctors don’t know all of the reasons why some women get PCOS but a woman might be more likely to have PCOS if her sister or mother also has it. It may also be related to problems that make your body produce too much insulin, which can affect the ovaries and their ability to ovulate (or release eggs).
Treatment will depend on the symptoms, age, and whether one is wanting to become pregnant. If a woman with PCOS is overweight, losing a little -- even 5% to 10% weight -- can make a world of difference in how she feels.
A physician may start a woman on the diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage) to lower insulin resistance, regulate ovulation, and help with weight loss. Metformin is incredibly hard on the stomach and here is where a compounding pharmacy can help. We work with physicians and patients to “personalize” a formula for them be it topical or oral.
If woman is not planning to get pregnant, hormonal birth control, like the skin patch or the pill may be prescribed to have a balancing effect on her hormones. These medications can help lower the risk of endometrial cancer, get periods on track, clear up acne, and lessen extra body hair.
If a woman is wanting to get pregnant, fertility medications can help ovaries release eggs.
To find out more about personalized formulas for PCOS, contact one of our locations and speak to a pharmacist.