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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Understanding The Diagnosis

Today, more than ever before, patients are taking a more thorough and active role in their health and wellbeing.  For most, this means acquiring as much knowledge as possible concerning the health challenges they face. When a woman is diagnosed with a commonly misunderstood and complicated diagnosis, however, it can result in confusion to say the least. One such example is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS affects as many as 10% of women of childbearing age.  Common symptoms include irregular menstrual cycles, enlarged ovaries, acne, hirsutism (excessive hairiness), obesity, and for some, difficulty conceiving.  Over time, an ultrasound may reveal multiple cysts (swollen follicles) that resemble a strand of pearls stretching across the surface of the ovary.  Women affected by PCOS can, eventually, be at higher risk of endometrial cancer due to the thickened lining of the uterus.  Some experts believe the syndrome begins in the ovaries, while others believe the cysts are a result of the syndrome rather than the cause.  Regardless, it is important for patients with this diagnosis to have a proper understanding of the syndrome in order to address it effectively as there is no cure.
First and foremost, it should be noted that the treatment regimen for PCOS is different among women trying to conceive than it is for those not trying to get pregnant.  For this reason, treatment plans should be individualized and based on each patient’s unique goals.  For women trying to conceive, two common therapies, clomiphene and letrozole, are used with excellent conception rates.  For those not considering pregnancy, contraceptives containing estrogen and progestin can help regulate menstrual cycles.  To address excessive hair growth and acne, a medication called Spironolactone is frequently prescribed.  Additionally, women with PCOS that are struggling with obesity are best advised to maintain a diet low in carbohydrates, and for all women with PCOS, exercising 5 or more times per week is an essential part of their treatment plan.
We recommend to all our patients an annual check up and an open discussion with Dr. Brady regarding any concerns or symptoms you may be experiencing.  Our all-female team and state of the art facility is designed to promote your optimal health and care.