Most women with PCOS grow a number of small cysts, or fluid-filled sacs, on their ovaries. The cysts are not harmful, but they can lead to an imbalance in hormone levels.
Women with PCOS may also experience menstrual cycle abnormalities, increased androgen (sex hormone) levels, excess hair growth, acne, and obesity.
In addition to the many health conditions associated with PCOS, which will be discussed in this article, PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women – because it can prevent ovulation.
Women who can conceive with PCOS have a higher incidence of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and premature delivery.
There is no cure for PCOS, but treatment aims to manage the symptoms that affect an individual.
This will depend on whether the individual wants to become pregnant and aims to reduce the risk of secondary medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
There are several recommended treatment options, including:
Birth control pills: These can help regulate hormones and menstruation.
Diabetes medications: These help manage diabetes, if necessary.
Fertility medications: If pregnancy is desired, these include the use of clomiphene (Clomid), a combination of clomiphene and metformin, or injectable gonadotropins, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) medications. In certain situations, letrozole (Femara) may be recommended.
Fertility treatments: These include in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or inseminations.
Excessive hair growth may be reduced with the drug spironolactone (Aldactone) or eflornithine (Vaniqa). Finasteride (Propecia) may also be recommended, but it should not be handled by women who may become pregnant.
Anyone using spironolactone should use birth control, due to the risk of birth defects if taken while pregnant. Breast-feeding on this medication is not recommended.
Other possible options to manage hair growth is laser hair removal, electrolysis, hormonal treatments, or vitamin and mineral use.
There is no cure for PCOS, but some home and lifestyle interventions can make a difference and relieve some symptoms.