Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Treatment

Dr Rina Agrawal is an expert in the field of PCOS. Approximately 10 to 15% of women of childbearing age have PCOS which is one of the most common causes of female infertility.

There is no single test to diagnose PCOS. Diagnosis is based on your symptoms and would involve taking a medical history, performing a physical examination, an ultrasound examination of your ovaries and blood tests.

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is quite a common condition in women. It affects how the ovaries work. There are three main features which could indicate the condition, irregular periods, excess androgen (causing excess facial or body hair) and polycystic ovaries (where ovaries are enlarged).

If you have two of these features then you might have PCOS. Currently, it is estimated that 1 in 5 women have PCOS.

Symptoms of PCOS

Many women do not have any symptoms. However, the signs and symptoms often present themselves when women are in their late teens or early 20s. Along with the above features, other symptoms include oily or acne prone skin, gaining weight, hair thinning or loss and difficulty getting pregnant.

In older women, PCOS has been linked to type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels. However, certain lifestyle choices can also cause these conditions.

Causes of PCOS

There is evidence to suggest that PCOS is genetic, running in families. However, it’s actual cause remains unknown. Current research suggests that it is related to abnormal hormone levels.

The hormone imbalance in women with PCOS is demonstrated through raised levels of testosterone and luteinising hormone (LH) and lower levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Why this actually happens is currently unknown.

Women with PCOS often show resistance to insulin. Insulin resistance has been shown to lead to weight gain. This, in turn, can make PCOS symptoms worse, as excess fat causes the body to produce more insulin compounding the symptoms.

Diagnosis will often include hormone tests, blood tests or an ultrasound scan.

Treatment for PCOS

Whilst PCOS cannot be cured, it can be successfully managed and treated.

Simply losing weight can have a profound effect on symptoms and reduce long term health problems. Even a small amount of weight loss can bring benefits.

To establish regular periods, the contraceptive pill or progestogen tablets might be prescribed.

To increase fertility, a range of medications might be offered. These include clomifene, metformin or Letrozole. Encouragingly, most women with PCOS are able to become pregnant with treatment.

Sometimes, a minor surgical procedure, laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) might be offered to women having fertility issues. This is usually offered after medication has not proved successful.

Medications and treatments are readily available to treat unwanted or excessive hair growth. This can include laser hair removal.

Treatments vary depending on the range of symptoms. PCOS responds well to the various treatments and medications on offer.