If you have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or suspect that you have it, turn to our experts at UC San Diego Health. They are world leaders in the diagnosis and treatment of PCOS.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormone disorder in women, affecting 5 to 10 percent of adolescent girls and adult women of child-bearing age. The signs of PCOS include excessive hair growth on the face and abdomen, acne, irregular or absent menstrual periods, lack of ovulation, and reduced fertility.
PCOS usually begins at or soon after puberty and is a life-long condition. Women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and cancer of the uterus.
Our PCOS Specialists
Under the direction of Dr. Antoni Duleba, our reproductive endocrinologists are internationally known specialists in PCOS. A reproductive endocrinologist is an OB/GYN physician who diagnoses and treats hormone-related disorders that are related to reproduction.
With the financial support of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), we are constantly researching all aspects of PCOS, including its cause, the best diagnostic criteria, and new therapies.
When to See a Doctor about PCOS
Women with PCOS may have no periods, irregular periods, or very long periods, and may also have one or more of these symptoms:
- Hair growth on the face and other parts of the body
- Patches of thick, velvety, dark skin (acanthosis nigricans), often on the neck or groin area
- Trouble getting pregnant (fertility problems)
- Weight gain, often around the waist
See a doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
How is PCOS diagnosed?
Your health care provider will ask about your health history and your symptoms. You will also have a physical exam. This will likely include a pelvic exam. This exam checks the health of your reproductive organs, both inside and outside your body.
Some of the symptoms of PCOS are like those caused by other health problems. Because of this, you may also have tests such as:
- Ultrasound uses sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues and organs. This test is used to look at the size of the ovaries and see if they have cysts. It can also examine the thickness of the uterus lining (endometrium).
- Blood tests to look for high levels of androgens and other hormones. Blood glucose levels as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels may be checked.
How is PCOS treated?
Treatment for PCOS depends on a number of factors. These may include your age, how severe your symptoms are, and your overall health. The type of treatment may also depend on whether you want to become pregnant in the future. We will help you develop the best treatment plan for your needs.
Our doctors work closely with you to help you achieve your their personal goals, including:
- Reducing hair growth
- Establishing regular menstrual cycles
- Limiting the risks of diabetes
- Treating infertility
We usually start by addressing a change in diet and activity. A healthy diet and more physical activity can help you lose weight and reduce your symptoms. They can also help your body use insulin more efficiently, lower blood glucose levels, and may help you ovulate.
If you do plan to become pregnant, your treatment may include medicines to cause ovulation by helping the ovaries to release eggs normally.
If you don't plan to become pregnant, your treatment may include:
- Birth control pills. These help to control menstrual cycles, lower androgen levels, and reduce acne.
- Diabetes medicine. This is often used to lower insulin resistance in PCOS. It may also help reduce androgen levels, slow hair growth, and help you ovulate more regularly.
- A change in diet and activity. A healthy diet and more physical activity can help you lose weight and reduce your symptoms. They can also help your body use insulin more efficiently, lower blood glucose levels, and may help you ovulate.
- Medicines to treat other symptoms. Some medicines can help reduce hair growth or acne.
See also: Gynecological Surgery
PCOS and Fertility
Women with PCOS often have problems with their ability to get pregnant. Our team works with you to preserve your fertility. Discover options for fertility care at UC San Diego Health.