Last week, in part three, we discussed the impact and diagnosis of PCOS and this week will discuss the treatment options for PCOS.
Diet and Lifestyle Tips for Patients
The treatment plan for PCOS usually begins with lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and weight loss.
Losing just 5-10% of body weight can help regulate the patient’s menstrual cycle and improve their PCOS symptoms. Weight loss can also help improve cholesterol levels, lower insulin levels, and reduce the risk of diabetes as well as heart disease.
Any diet that aids the patient in their weight loss can help improve their condition. However, some diets may be more beneficial than others.
Studies have found that low carb diets are beneficial for both weight loss and lowering insulin levels for patients with PCOS. A low glycemic index diet (where the patient gets most of their carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) helps regulate the menstrual cycle better than a typical diet for weight loss.
Research has also shown that 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least three days a week can aid PCOS patients with their weight loss. Ovulation and insulin levels can be improved when the patient loses weight with exercise.
Exercise is even more beneficial when coupled with a healthy diet. Diet in addition to exercise helps a patient lose more weight than diet or exercise alone. It also reduces their risk for diabetes and heart disease.
There is some evidence that acupuncture can assist with improving PCOS symptoms, but more research is required to prove this theory.
PCOS treatment begins with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. If a patient is overweight, losing just 5-10% of their body weight can help improve their symptoms.
Common medical treatments
Medications like birth control pills can help regulate the menstrual cycle and treat PCOS symptoms such as acne and abnormal hair growth.
Taking a combination birth control pill of estrogen and progestin daily can restore a normal hormone balance, regulate ovulation, alleviate symptoms like excessive hair growth, and help prevent endometrial cancer. These hormones come in pills, patches, and vaginal rings.
Metformin (Glucophage, Fortamet) is a medication commonly used to treat type two diabetes. It can also treat some symptoms of PCOS by improving insulin levels.
One study found that taking metformin stimulates weight loss, lowers blood sugar, and restores a consistent menstrual cycle better than modifications to diet and exercise on it’s own.
Clomiphene (Clomid) is a fertility medication that can help patients with PCOS get pregnant. However, it raises the risk of multiple births like twins.
Hair Removal Treatments
There are a few treatments that can help get rid of unwanted hair or prevent it from growing. Eflornithine (Vaniqa) cream is a prescription medication that slows hair growth. Treatments like laser hair removal and electrolysis can help get rid of unwanted hair on the patient’s face and body.
Surgery can be a method to increase fertility if other treatments aren’t effective. Ovarian drilling is a procedure that creates tiny holes in the ovary, with a thin heated needle or laser, to bring back a normal ovulation cycle.
Medications like birth control and metformin can help restore a normal menstrual cycle in patients with PCOS. Clomiphene and surgery can help improve their fertility. Hair removal treatments can help women manage unwanted hair.
When to see a doctor
A patient should see their doctor if they have:
● Missed periods and they’re not pregnant.
● Symptoms of PCOS, like weight gain or excessive hair growth.
● Been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for more than a year.
● Symptoms of diabetes, like excessive thirst/hunger, blurry vision, or unexplained weight loss.
Patients with PCOS should schedule regular visits with their primary care physician. They’ll need regular tests to check for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other potential complications.
Patients should see a doctor if they’ve missed periods or have other potential PCOS symptoms like excessive hair growth. Patients should also see a doctor if they’ve been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for more than a year.
The Bottom Line
PCOS can disturb a woman’s menstrual cycle and make it harder for them to get pregnant. High levels of androgen can also lead to unwanted symptoms like excessive hair growth.
Lifestyle changes are the first treatments doctors usually recommend for patients with PCOS, and they are often effective. Weight loss can treat PCOS symptoms and improve the patient’s likelihood of getting pregnant. Diet and exercise are two effective ways for patients to lose weight.
Medications are an option for patients when lifestyle changes alone don’t work. Birth control pills and metformin can both restore more normal menstrual cycles and relieve PCOS symptoms.
If a patient is concerned that they might have PCOS or they want additional resources to help them manage their PCOS symptoms, they can contact our office at (530) 345-0064, ext 281 to set up an appointment.