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Do you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)? This medical condition affects one in ten women and can severely affect fertility.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is sometimes called the "silent killer".

Despite the fact that PCOS affects 8%-12% of women in North America, up to 50% of women with PCOS go undiagnosed. This has serious health implications for women as PCOS is a leading cause of infertility and is associated with a number of other health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and endrometrial cancer.

Some of the women that I see in my fertility practice have no idea they have PCOS until they discover they can't get pregnant.

What is PCOS?

PCOS is a condition in which women have high levels of male hormones (androgens). These hormones play a role in blocking the release of the egg from the follicle and in the overproduction of the female hormone estrogen.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

The hormonal imbalance and especially the excess of male hormones that characterize PCOS produce a range of symptoms, including:

* Irregular or absent periods

* Acne

* Excessive hair growth (hirsutism)

* High body mass index (BMI)

* belly fat

* Depression and anxiety

* Hair loss

* Pre-diabetic signs

* High insulin levels

* Infertility

Insulin seems to be a key factor in PCOS. Many women with PCOS have increased insulin resistance. High levels of insulin in the blood lead to the ovaries producing too much androgen. As well, excess insulin leads to excess glucose in the blood and sets the conditions for pre-diabetes, weight gain, and diabesity.

How is PCOS diagnosed?

PCOS can be difficult to diagnose because there is no one single diagnostic test and the signs and symptoms vary from patient to patient.

Clinically, if you have two out of three of the following symptoms, you will most likely be diagnosed with PCOS:

1. Irregular, few, or absent menstrual periods.

2. Androgen excess--clinical or biochemical (excessive body hair, acne, loss of head hair, increases testosterone in the blood)

3. Polycystic ovaries--the ovaries of women with PCOS usually have a distinctive appearance on ultrasound.

Treatment

There is no magic bullet for treating PCOS and often a combination of treatment strategies is required. The first approach to treating PCOS should be changes in lifestyle, including following a low glycemic index (GI) diet to help control insulin levels, regular exercise, and additionally weight loss if you have a BMI over 25.

The good news I convey to my overweight patients with PCOS is that they do not need to lose huge amounts of weight to conceive; they do not need to return to a "normal weight" (typically defined by a BMI of 18-25 kg/m2). One study showed that 40% of women with PCOS with a BMI of 34 who lost just 5% of their body weight got pregnant naturally(1)

Medication

In addition to diet and exercise, you might also be given one of several drugs to stimulate egg production, such as clomiphene, Letrozole, or one of the gonadotropins. Alternatively, you might be given Metformin, a diabetes drug, and/or the supplement myo-inositol to help lower your insulin levels and regularize your cycle.

A final note: if you are overweight and trying to conceive, you should take 5mg of folic acid while trying to get pregnant as well as during pregnancy. Folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus.

Dr. Beth Taylor is a fertility specialist, co-director of Olive Fertility Centre and Clinical Associate Professor at UBC. Dr. Taylor coordinates the UBC Obstetric & Gynecology residency program "Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility" rotation. She is an active staff member at BC Women's Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital and performs surgery at both of these centres.

Olive Fertility Centre (olivefertility.com) is one of Canada's leading fertility clinics with clinics in Vancouver, Surrey and North Vancouver.

By Dr Beth Taylor MD,

Special to The Post

Caption: Dr Beth Taylor MD

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Title Annotation:Feature
Author:Taylor, Beth
Publication:South Asian Post
Date:Oct 4, 2018
Words:639
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