Healthy Living to Reduce Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Jill F. Sternquist, MD, Board Eligible Obstetrician/Gynecologist at Yankton Medical Clinic, P.C.
More than five million women in the United States are affected by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). As one of the most common endocrine abnormalities in women, PCOS can be detected by missed or irregular periods, small cysts in the ovaries or high levels of androgens, also known as the “male” hormones in females.
Though the exact cause is unknown, experts have found that PCOS has some genetic connection. Often patients have mothers or sisters with similar symptoms, and in some cases PCOS can occur in girls as young as 11 years old.
The main and underlying problem with PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. Elevated levels of androgens affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation thus causing an irregular menstrual cycle. Also, doctors know that insulin, a hormone that controls energy in the body, also plays a part in the Syndrome. Research shows that an excess of insulin increases the production of androgen, which ultimately causes PCOS.
Symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman. However, the most common symptom is infertility since PCOS patients are not ovulating. In addition, weight gain and obesity, acne and oily skin, pelvic pain as well as anxiety and depression are common issues associated with the Syndrome.
Based on medical history and lab work, doctors can make a diagnosis for PCOS. Ultrasound tests are also regularly used to evaluate the ovaries.
With no single cure, treatment for PCOS is based on the patient’s goals. If pregnancy is desired, weight loss (as little as five percent) is a good option as it induces ovulation in75 percent of women. Medication is also available to stimulate ovulation. For those with high insulin levels, diabetic medication may be prescribed. If the patient does not desire to become pregnant, birth control pills can also be used to regulate the menstrual cycle.
In addition to the small risk of endometrial cancer, PCOS patients are also prone to diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, hypertension and heart disease. By getting into the routine of eating right, exercising and not smoking, women can practice PCOS prevention. Long-term complications can also be reduced if a woman is diagnosed and treated early.
To make an appointment with Dr. Sternquist, please call Yankton Medical Clinic, P.C. at 605-665-5538. Dr. Sternquist also has outreach clinics at Vermillion Medical Clinic (605-624-8643), Freeman Regional Health Services (605-925-4219), and Avera St. Anthony's Hospital Specialty Clinic (402-336-5122)