Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common condition that affects about 1 in 10 reproductive-aged women. PCOS causes the reproductive hormones to be out of balance, which can lead to the ovaries becoming enlarged and developing many small cysts.
Managing the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
At Atlantic Endocrinology & Diabetes Center we know that symptoms of PCOS include irregular or missed periods, hirsutism (excess hair growth on the face and body), acne, glucose intolerance, weight gain or obesity, and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Many women with PCOS also struggle with infertility. Additionally, the chronic lack of menstruation puts women with PCOS at a higher risk for uterine cancer.
Identifying your PCOS type
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that causes ovaries to produce abnormal amounts of androgen, or male sex, hormones.
As the name implies, a large number of small fluid-filled sacs called cysts often develop in the ovaries of those affected.
PCOS is a frequently under-diagnosed endocrine disorder affecting 1 in 5 women globally. The first step towards managing this is to identify your PCOS type to understand possible treatment options.
PCOS Types And Treatment
4 Types of PCOS
There are four main kinds of PCOS:
1.Insulin resistance PCOS
Insulin resistance is the most common trigger for PCOS. This is the most common type of PCOS, affecting around 70% of people.
It happens when our cells become “numb” to the effects of insulin, which causes the pancreas to make more insulin than normal.
This type of PCOS comes with struggles with your weight—especially gaining weight around the stomach/abdomen—sugar cravings, as well as symptoms like fatigue or brain fog.
Post-pill PCOS presents in some women after they’ve stopped taking oral contraceptive pills. The pill suppresses ovulation so that you don’t get pregnant.
Once off the pill, women experience an increase in androgen production, which causes symptoms such as acne, hair growth on the body, irregular periods and hair loss on the head.
Chronic inflammation causes a hormone imbalance by suppressing ovulation (so you don’t make progesterone) and increasing the production of testosterone.
Symptoms of this type of PCOS include headaches and joint pain, fatigue, skin issues like eczema, and bowel problems like IBS.
This type presents itself as a response to unusual amounts of stress. The adrenal organs are responsible for controlling the stress response, and end up producing another form of androgen as a result of stress, causing symptoms similar to the other types of PCOS.
Other causes of PCOS: Some women present symptoms of PCOS but do not get a diagnosis of the four main types of PCOS.
These symptoms are usually caused by vitamin deficiencies, food intolerances, thyroid disease, and malnutrition.
There are also women whose trigger is never found, but the treatments, especially lifestyle modifications, remain helpful in keeping the symptoms in check.
Can I Get Pregnant With it?
Having polycystic ovary syndrome doesn’t mean pregnancy is off the table, but PCOS often leads to a hormonal imbalance that interferes with ovulation.
If you are not ovulating, it is not possible to conceive naturally. However, most cases of PCOS are treatable.
Research has shown that both diet and lifestyle factors can be a good first step in starting to address PCOS and there’s a lot we can try from a nutritional approach to try to bring the symptoms back in balance.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Reduce your sugar intake – when we feel tired or low in mood, we often reach for sugary snacks to get us through the day or to make us feel better.
But this can be making the problem worse and feeding the high blood sugar levels, which in turn can drive hormone imbalances.
If you are feeling tired and in need of a snack opt for a protein based snack like nuts and seeds, or vegetable sticks and hummus. See my blog on blood sugar balance for more tips.
- Opt for complex carbohydrates like sweet potato, brown rice, wholewheat pasta or brown rice pasta and quinoa instead of white potatoes, white bread or white rice or white pasta.
Carbohydrates all eventually break down into sugars, so going for complex carbohydrates slows down the rate at which they turn into sugar, helping to keep both your blood sugar and hormone levels in balance.
- Manage your stress levels – living with a condition like PCOS is stressful, but the more stressed we are, the more inflammation there is in the body, the more out of balance our hormones are and the more we hold on to sugar in the bloodstream.
Stress can make conditions like PCOS worse, so doing something every day to help manage the effects of stress on the body can really help. Go for a walk, have a soak in the bath or do some gentle stretches, have a look at my stress blog for more ideas.
Can It Be Cured?
While there is no cure for polycystic ovary syndrome, many of the symptoms are easily treatable making it possible to conceive.
Consult with your healthcare professional at Atlantic Endocrinology & Diabetes Center, New York, to determine the best course of action based on your specific symptoms.
Certain medicines and pills can be taken to manage the symptoms of PCOS. Hormonal birth control like the pill, patch, shot, and vaginal ring can help balance out your menstrual cycle, reduce facial hair, and prevent acne.
Speak with your doctor to determine which method is right for you.
It is possible to induce ovulation in the ovaries using certain medications. The medication will promote the development of one or more mature follicles in the ovaries of women who are unable to ovulate naturally.
There are five major types of medications used: Clomid, aromatase inhibitors like Femara and letrozole, injectable gonadotropins, the GnRH pump, and Bromocriptine. You should consult with your healthcare professional to see which of these medications is right for your unique situation.