Living with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, requires some adjustments, but it doesn’t mean life will be any less full or meaningful. PCOS is a collection of symptoms that occurs if your body makes too many male hormones called androgens. A variety of treatments can help you reduce the effects of symptoms so you can focus on the things that matter most, not PCOS.
How PCOS May Affect You
PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility because of how it can affect menstruation. Some women with PCOS stop ovulating, leading to irregular periods or none at all. In addition, PCOS can also cause cysts to form on the ovaries.
PCOS can affect many more aspects of your life and health, including:
- Hair growth or loss. Higher-than-normal androgen levels can cause excess hair to grow in areas where it typically appears in men. For example, too much hair may grow on your face or chin. On the other hand, you may experience hair loss on your scalp.
- Mood. You may be more likely to develop depression and anxiety.
- Risk for certain chronic diseases. Women with PCOS often have high insulin levels because their bodies have difficulty using this hormone. This is known as insulin resistance, and it can lead to Type 2 diabetes. PCOS may also be a risk factor for heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Self-image. Some symptoms of PCOS, such as hair growth and acne, can lower your self-esteem.
- Skin changes. PCOS can cause acne on your face and upper body. In addition, your skin may darken in certain areas, such as your groin and under your breasts. You may also develop skin tags on your neck or in your armpits.
- Sleep. PCOS is linked with sleep apnea, or brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.
- Weight. You may gain or find it difficult to lose weight.
Take Action to Manage Symptoms
PCOS doesn’t have a cure and is unlikely to completely go away, although your periods may become more consistent as you approach menopause. Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce the effects of PCOS. Your primary care or women’s health provider can work with you to create a treatment plan.
Pregnancy is possible with PCOS, and the treatments your medical provider recommends will depend, on part, on whether you want to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Medications to increase fertility may help. If they don’t work, you may want to consider other treatment options, including possible surgery to help you ovulate.
Losing weight by exercising regularly and following a healthy diet can help your body use insulin and may improve fertility. If you’re dealing with excess hair, your medical provider may recommend a hair removal product or procedure, or prescribe a cream that can slow the growth of unwanted hair.
Talk with a Women’s Health Specialist
Learn more about Women’s Health Services at St. Elizabeth in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana. Make an appointment with one of our St. Elizabeth Physicians specialists for help managing your symptoms.