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Polycystic ovary syndrome: symptoms and treatment options

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder commonly found in women of reproductive age. It's characterized by an imbalance in reproductive hormones, leading to various symptoms.

The exact cause of PCOS is not yet fully understood, but factors such as genetics, insulin resistance, and hormonal imbalances play significant roles. Diagnosis typically involves a combination of physical exams, medical history review, blood tests to measure hormone levels, and imaging tests (like ultrasounds) to examine the ovaries.

Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome 

  • Irregular periods

  • Excess androgen

  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight

  • Fatigue

  • Skin issues

  • Fertility problems

  • Mood changes


If you suspect you have PCOS or are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with a St. Joseph Health provider for a proper diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.

Treating PCOS

Treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome aims to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term complications. It typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and sometimes assisted reproductive technology if fertility is a concern. Here are some common approaches:

  • Lifestyle modifications: Healthy lifestyle changes can significantly improve symptoms. This includes:

    • Healthy diet: Emphasizing whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates while reducing processed foods and sugars. A low-glycemic index diet might be beneficial for managing insulin levels.

    • Regular exercise: Physical activity helps manage weight, improves insulin sensitivity, and regulates menstrual cycles.

    • Weight management: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can improve symptoms and hormone levels.

  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe medications to address specific symptoms:

    • Anti-androgen medications: Drugs that block the effect of androgens can help reduce symptoms like acne and excess hair growth.

    • Metformin: Often used for type 2 diabetes, it can help improve insulin sensitivity and regulate menstrual cycles in women with PCOS.

  • Fertility treatment: For women trying to conceive, fertility medications combined with techniques like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) might be recommended.

Each person's situation is unique, and consulting with a St. Joseph Health provider can provide valuable insights and options tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

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