I've written before about harmless ovarian cysts, but I want to talk about the problem of too many cysts. PCOS, short for polycystic ovarian syndrome, happens to about one in ten women. The hallmark of the disease is multiple small cysts on both ovaries. While these cysts don't generally cause problems themselves, they're an outgrowth of an underlying hormonal imbalance. The most common symptom of PCOS is irregular periods; women often skip several months in between periods. Other common problems are bad acne, hair growth in the wrong places (face, chest, back), skin tags, and weight gain (though some women with PCOS are very thin).

If you have these signs, it's important to see your gyno--making the diagnosis may take multiple blood tests, and possibly an ultrasound of your uterus and ovaries. These ultrasounds are often done vaginally, which while not comfortable, are not painful. There are multiple treatments available for PCOS, depending on what your symptoms are and if you are trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy. Besides making you feel better, early intervention can help stave off the long-term consequences (such as diabetes and heart disease). A diagnosis of PCOS can seem scary, so make sure you're seeing a good gyno who explains everything to you, and use the better on-line resources and support groups for information. Have any of you been told that you've got polycystic ovaries?


6 Comments

Dark Sarcasm said:

Yeah I do. It's a total pain, only not literally. Best advice is to ignore doctors as I have never received good info from them. Doctors have told me to lose weight and in the next breath they tell me that PCOS is an endocrine disease... yes one and one is two but few ever make that leap.

Check out the book here http://www.ovarian-cysts-pcos.com/ I have it and it's very good. Impossible to stick to but has good advice. Supplements of Evening primrose oil, Alpha lipoic acid, etc are great for regulating blood sugar.

Get thee to a support group!

said:

I suffered with bad acne during all my teenage years. When I was 18, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. I started taking birth control pills and my skin immediately cleared up. Since then, I had no problems with the disease. The pills regulate my hormones and avoid any symptoms or long-term consequences.

Jamie said:

While I lack ovaries, my girlfriend has pretty bad PCOS. She also had a series of bad doctors for years who insisted on using the pill to try to fix it, even though it made her very sick and didn't ease the symptoms.

She recently started Metformin, and while the initial side effects while titrating up were harsh, the results have been worth it; this is the first time in years she has gone for more than a week or two without her period.

said:

I have PCOS, but from what I can tell treatments are really pretty limited and focused on controlling symptoms and achieving or not achieving pregnancy. If you don't want to get pregnant, you take birth control pills to regulate your cycle (which leaves people with religious objects to birth control with no options). If you do want to get pregnant, you take Clomid to help induce ovulation. Metformin works to regulate the cycle in some women but it has done nothing for me in the 6 months I've been on it. As far as I've seen, there are no treatments to correct the underlying hormonal imbalance. There is nothing to restore normal fertility. Please correct me if I'm wrong...

said:

There was a study recently released stating that consumption
of tea reduces the risk of ovarian cancer ( href="http://www.supplementinfo.org/index.php?src=news&refno=54&category=Supplements%20In%20The%20News">source!)
Apparently, two cups of tea a day reduces the risk by
half! Amazing. What do you think of the study?

Dr. Kate said:

To the March 31 poster:
Yes, there are no current treatments that correct the underlying hormonal imbalance...only treatments that target the symptoms. While sometimes weight loss can help the symptoms, there really is no cure.

To the April 14 poster:
What a fascinating possibility! The challenges with studies like this one are that food intake changes over time. Women who drank a lot of tea at the start of the study may drink less over time, and the reverse is also true. The best way to get good information is for subjects to fill out a daily diary--but can you imagine how time-consuming that would be, a diary every day for 15 years? I think it's safe to conclude that drinking tea may help protect against cancer, but it's too soon to know for sure.

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