Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome aka PCOS, is a hormone disorder that affects 1 in 10 reproductive aged women. Key features of the syndrome are unpredictable periods, difficulties with fertility, unwanted hair growth on face or breasts, weight gain, and ovarian cysts. One key feature found on lab testing, is high levels of testosterone. This is responsible for all of the above symptoms and often leads to insulin resistance.
The name of the syndrome can be a bit confusing. One point to make is that having one large ovarian cyst is different from the many (often small) cysts visualized on the ovaries in PCOS. However, ovarian cysts are not a requirement for diagnosis. So, if you have never had ovarian cysts of any kind, that does not exclude you from having PCOS.
As noted in our newsletter intro above, PCOS is both a hormonal and a metabolic disorder. A major target of treatment is reducing testosterone to allow for hormonal balance. When testosterone is high, estrogen and progesterone are often low in response. Estrogen and progesterone are needed to have a normal menstrual cycle with appropriate ovulation.
This hormone imbalance leads to unpredictable and light periods (not having periods every month), difficulties getting pregnant, and thickening of the uterine lining which can be a risk for uterine cancer. So, although many women would not complain about having less periods, it is important to have cycles regulated so that uterine lining is shed every month to avoid unchecked and possibly cancerous growth.
The major metabolic features of high testosterone, include insulin resistance and high cholesterol. This can be largely controlled by diet and lifestyle modifications. However, many women do quite well with herbal medicine or medication to maintain healthy blood sugar regulation.
There are many ways to support the overall PCOS syndrome and get your body back into balance. Dr. Meg Chmelik has a passion for supporting women with PCOS and will help you regulate your hormones and guide you through the treatment options that are best suited for you to feel your best self as soon as possible.