Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can’t be cured, but it can be treated. Through healthy lifestyle adjustments, and sometimes the assistance of medical or surgical options, women with PCOS can manage the condition and conceive healthy babies.
For those who aren’t trying to conceive, treatment of PCOS revolves around managing the physical symptoms, and reducing the risk of future complications that can arise from PCOS, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, endometrial cancer, and sleep apnea.
For women who are trying to conceive, the goal is a bit simpler: conceiving a healthy baby.
Types of treatment
Women with PCOS may undergo any of the following types of treatment:
- Birth control pills: Women aren’t planning to become pregnant in the near future often take birth control pills to manage PCOS. Birth control pills reduce acne, help to regulate menstruation, and lower the amount of androgens that a woman’s body produces.
- Diabetes medications: Some diabetes medications, Metformin in particular, help treat PCOS symptoms by changing how the body reacts to insulin. This can help decrease the amount of facial and body hair that someone with PCOS might have, and in some cases, it helps women start ovulating again.
- Androgen-blocking medications: Women who aren’t trying to become pregnant can take certain medications that block the production of androgen. Androgen-blocking medications help decrease excess facial and body hair growth, and clear up PCOS-related acne.
- Fertility medications: Women who are trying to get pregnant may take certain medications that help them ovulate. Three of the most commonly-used fertility medications include clomiphene, Metformin combined with clomiphene, and gonadotropins. Women with PCOS might also use IVF to conceive.
In some cases, women undergo one of four minimally invasive surgeries for their PCOS. If you have questions about these, your provider can help determine if any might be appropriate treatments for you.
- Ovarian drilling: This procedure involves a doctor making small holes in the ovary to lower the body’s production of androgen. The drawbacks to ovarian drilling are that women sometimes have scars, and the results aren’t permanent, so women usually have to have this done multiple times.
- Cyst aspiration: The doctor uses a needle to puncture and drain fluid from the cysts. This procedure generally has a fast recovery time and minimal complications.
- Oophorectomy: With this procedure, one or both of the ovaries are removed. This procedure is generally safe and without high rates of complications. It’s usually performed alongside a hysterectomy, and generally leads to menopause.
- Hysterectomy: The doctor removes both the uterus and the cervix. A partial hysterectomy involves the doctor just removing the uterus.
Finding the right treatment
The type of treatment a woman gets for PCOS depends on her age, her symptoms from PCOS, and whether or not she’s thinking about getting pregnant. It usually takes a little while to determine which regimen works the best. One thing is for certain though: once a woman gets diagnosed with PCOS, treatment can make a huge difference to her health.
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“Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) fact sheet.” WomensHealth. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dec 23 2014. Web.
“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).” Hormone. Hormone Health Network, May 2013. Web.
“Types of Treatment.” PCOSFoundation. PCOS Foundation, 2016. Web.