Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition characterized by irregular or infrequent periods, often with acne or excessive hair growth, and possible difficulty with fertility. The cause of PCOS is not fully understood, and genetics may play a role. Insulin resistance, which leads to higher circulating insulin levels, causes the ovaries to make and release higher levels of androgens (male-type hormones). Higher levels of androgens may prevent ovulation, which causes irregular menstruation. Higher androgen levels can also cause acne, facial hair, and hair loss/thinning in women.
PCOS is diagnosed by taking a detailed menstrual history, assessing symptoms, blood work, and pelvic ultrasound. Not all women with polycystic-appearing ovaries have PCOS, and vice-versa, with the same going for irregular periods and androgen excess symptoms. But for all women diagnosed with PCOS, glucose regulation is of utmost importance. This can be achieved by lifestyle and dietary modifications, including but not limited to: regular exercise, physical activity, such as walking, following meals; high protein breakfast, and starting meals with fiber/protein/fat versus carbohydrates. I frequently recommend the book Glucose Revolution for great tips!
Medications are another option for treatment of PCOS, including Metformin for treatment of glucose dysregulation and insulin resistance, birth control pills to regulate menses and protect the uterus from unopposed estrogen (also for acne and hair loss), and medication to block androgens. Certain supplements can be very helpful as well, including myo-inositol and berberine. If you have concerns regarding symptoms or your period, let us know and we can evaluate you. However, everyone can benefit from being conscientious about glucose regulation, it’s a great place to start for overall health promotion!
Nina Jarosz, APN, WHNP