Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a hormonal imbalance that causes symptoms affecting their overall health. The elevated levels of male hormones that accompanies PCOS can lead to missed menstrual periods, excess facial and body hair, trouble getting pregnant, and metabolic problems, such as insulin-resistance.
While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, a comprehensive treatment approach can help manage the condition. At WestMed Family Medicine, we use birth control to help treat PCOS. Here’s what you need to know.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is an imbalance in your hormones that affects, in most cases, your menstrual cycle. Girls as young as 11 can get PCOS, and it affects about one in every 10 women. No one knows the exact cause of PCOS, but most of its symptoms come from problems with hormones.
Women with PCOS often have too much insulin, the hormone that helps turn food into energy, or extra androgens, hormones that contribute to male traits, such as extra hair on the face.
Polycystic ovary syndrome gets its name from the little sacs or cysts that sometimes appear on the ovaries of women who have PCOS. These little sacs are fluid-filled and may prevent the release of eggs from your ovaries. This can cause problems with fertility, the ability to become pregnant.
How can PCOS affect my life?
At WestMed Family Medicine, we treat women and girls of all ages and understand the impact PCOS can have on your daily life. More than a mere nuisance, PCOS can put you at risk for other health problems, such as diabetes, a disease in which the body has elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine, causing abnormal metabolism.
PCOS also puts you at risk for high blood pressure, where the heart is overworked and begins to damage the delicate tissue inside the walls of the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
PCOS can also lead to:
- Missed or irregular periods
- Heavy periods
- Pelvic pain
- Weight gain
- Trouble losing weight
Patches of dark, thick skin may occur with PCOS as well as other associated health risks.
How can birth control help manage PCOS symptoms?
While there isn’t a cure for PCOS yet, hormonal birth control along with lifestyle changes can help you manage PCOS symptoms. In fact, for many women symptoms disappear.
At WestMed Family Medicine, we may recommend birth control pills that contain two hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Combination birth control pills increase estrogen, lower testosterone, and keep your female hormones in balance. As the level of testosterone and other androgens decline, symptoms tend to improve.
For some women, birth control containing a single hormone, typically progestin, may be used instead of combination birth control pills. Often called “minipills,” progestin-only birth control is less likely to cause side effects than combination birth control. Both options work the same way, by reducing the amount of male hormones your body produces. Lowering testosterone is key to relieving symptoms of PCOS.
Lifestyle measures, such as losing 5-10% of your body weight and controlling carbohydrate intake can also help manage PCOS symptoms.
Appropriately managing PCOS symptoms can significantly improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of metabolic problems. To learn more about available PCOS treatments, call our Westminster, Colorado, office to schedule an appointment or request an appointment using our online booking system.