PCOS is an insulin resistance (prediabetes) syndrome
Do you have irregular periods? Are you dealing with excess hair growth on your body, or with thinning hair on your head? How about unexplained weight gain? Have you been trying, and failing, to conceive a baby for more than six months? Do you have central fat, cravings for sweets and carbohydrates, or a family history of diabetes? If so, you may be living with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), an insulin resistance syndrome that affects one out of every 10 women between the ages of 15 and 44. PCOS occurs when the ovaries, under the influence of elevated insulin, produce high levels of androgen (male) hormones. This elevation often leads to formation of small cysts, thereby disrupting ovulation.
A PCOS diagnosis does NOT necessarily mean that you can’t get pregnant.
In fact, getting diagnosed with this condition is the first step in resolving infertility. An endocrinologist, gynecologist, or fertility specialist can perform the appropriate evaluation to determine the presence of abnormal ovulation. Once identified, PCOS can be treated effectively with a medication called metformin (which reduces insulin resistance and helps you lose weight) or, perhaps, an oral anti-estrogen medication called clomiphene. If unsuccessful, injectable hormone medications can also be used as a second line of treatment.
Even if you’re not trying to have a baby, your PCOS should be treated.
Women with untreated PCOS have a higher risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and certain types of cancers (endometrial, ovarian and breast). In addition to metformin (which is the principal treatment), PCOS can also be treated with a type of birth control pill that contains both estrogen and progestin. Fat loss has also been shown to independently help with the regulation of the menstrual cycle.
Effective treatment requires full evaluation
Upon visiting your endocrinologist or gynecologist, and describing your symptoms, you will likely undergo blood tests to check for abnormal hormone levels (including insulin, which is the principal hormone that is responsible for this condition). A transvaginal ultrasound (or sonogram) may be performed to examine the uterine wall and check the ovaries for benign masses or cysts.
Your doctor will speak with you about lifestyle changes (optimization of diet and exercise) and medications that can treat your insulin resistance and help restore normal menstruation.
If you think you may have PCOS, get evaluated. Find a qualified endocrinologist or gynecologist near you.
About Carmina Charles, MD
Carmina Charles, MD, is board certified in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism with board eligibility in diabetes, metabolism and medical genetics and as a physician nutrition specialist. She specializes in treating women with polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid disorders, diabetes, metabolism abnormalities, and nutritional disorders. Dr. Charles is a tri-lingual provider, with fluency in English, Creole, and French. For more information and to book an appointment, call (407) 303-2801.