Living with PCOS
As many as 5 million women in the United States are living with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This life-long condition impacts many aspects of health. PCOS tends to run in families. If you have a relative with PCOS, you’re more likely to develop the condition yourself. While there is no cure for the condition, you can manage your symptoms and live well with PCOS.
Appropriate diagnosis is key
Because PCOS is tricky to diagnose, many women experience symptoms for a prolonged period before their doctor reaches a diagnosis of PCOS. At Caring for Women’s Health, gynecologist and women’s health specialist Dr. Lori Davidson specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions like PCOS.
We help women find the right combination of treatment with lifestyle changes, medication, and sometimes surgery to effectively manage PCOS. The right diagnosis is key to getting relief from symptoms and reclaiming a good quality of life.
Various factors are considered when diagnosing PCOS. We typically find that women with PCOS have at least two of the following:
High androgen levels
Irregular menstrual cycles
A comprehensive physical exam, blood tests, and ultrasound imaging are used to check for abnormalities when there is a suspicion of PCOS.
How does PCOS affect the body?
Women with PCOS have elevated levels of hormones known as androgens. The hormonal imbalance seen in this condition has far reaching implications on a woman’s health. The body works hard to maintain a delicate balance. When the scales begin to tip too far to one side, it can affect many parts of the body and the way the body functions. There are some important ways PCOS affects the body.
Elevated blood sugar
Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance. High testosterone raises insulin and elevated insulin increases free testosterone. This two-way effect causes cells to become less responsive to insulin. As a result, the pancreas produces even more insulin in an effort to lower blood sugar.
Women with PCOS are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The good news is, we often see an improvement in insulin resistance and androgen levels with dietary changes that limit carbohydrate intake. We find that low-carbohydrate and low-glycemic eating patterns benefit women with PCOS.
Cholesterol dysregulation is a common abnormality seen in women with PCOS. Nearly 70% of women with PCOS have an unfavorable cholesterol profile. Insulin resistance is a key factor in problems regulating cholesterol.
We tend to find that women with PCOS have elevated levels of harmful forms of cholesterol and lower levels of beneficial forms of cholesterol, raising their risk for heart disease. Reducing insulin resistance and lowering androgen levels is of great importance in successfully managing PCOS.
High blood pressure
Having PCOS puts you at a greater risk for high blood pressure and makes you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the future. Insulin resistance, elevated androgens, obesity, and greater sympathetic nervous system activity contribute to the heightened risk for women with PCOS to develop high blood pressure.
Improving insulin resistance, lowering androgen levels, and maintaining a healthy weight are crucial to lowering the risk of complications from PCOS.
PCOS is a common cause of infertility. The condition can affect your ability to become pregnant in various ways. The hormonal imbalance PCOS causes can affect how your ovaries work. Problems with ovulation is the most common reason women with PCOS have trouble getting pregnant. With the help of an obstetrician, many women with PCOS can overcome fertility issues and go on to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Living well with PCOS
Living well with PCOS means partnering with a gynecologist to create an individualized treatment plan to manage your condition. It often eases patients’ minds to know that PCOS is a treatable condition and that most women with PCOS improve with the right treatment.
To learn more about how we can help you best manage PCOS, call our Greenwood, IN, office at 317-893-3131 to schedule a visit with Dr. Davidson.