Polycystic Ovary Syndrome PCOS is a complicated and painful syndrome to live with and be even more complicated if you’re trying to get pregnant. This disease affects 5 percent of American women between the ages of 18 and 44, and is a common cause of infertility around the world. Thankfully, new insights to this disease may help doctors understand it better and treat it sooner to help women achieve pregnancy and lead healthy lives as mothers.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is an endocrine disorder that disrupts the reproductive system and causes the ovaries to develop cysts. This can cause irregular periods, excessive hair growth, acne, and of course cysts in the ovaries. Symptoms develop as soon as a girl has her first menstrual cycle. A flood of androgens, typically male hormones, confuse the female reproductive system and allow the ovaries to mature eggs but not release them. This causes cysts to develop. The excess amount of these hormones in the female body causes hair growth and irregular painful periods. While doctors are making strides in understanding this condition, they do not know the true cause. There are a few things that can increase the odds of developing PCOS. Heredity can play a role. Mothers can easily pass this trait down to their daughters. Excess insulin can spur the production of androgens, which can lead to ovarian dysfunction and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Finally, low-grade inflammation can irritate the ovaries and cause the overproduction of the androgens that cause PCOS. Living with PCOS can be difficult for women who suffer from it. It can cause pain, as well as embarrassing acne, facial and excessive body hair, but perhaps the most troublesome problem that follows polycystic ovary syndrome is the inability to become pregnant. Thankfully new insights are enabling us to learn more about how this syndrome manifests.
The new research surrounding PCOS has to do with pinpointing the androgens that cause it. Scientists at the University of Birmingham have determined which androgens seem to cause the onset of PCOS. Scientists understand that an increase in the predominantly male hormones, androgens, are the cause of development of ovarian cysts and disruption of the reproductive system. Their research found that the androgens coursing through the bodies of PCOS were largely 11-oxygenated C19 steroids. This class of androgen are just as powerful as testosterone. This discovery can make it possible for fertility doctors to quickly and definitively diagnose PCOS in young women. Early diagnosis can help in treatments and may create a better outcome for a woman with PCOS who wishes to become pregnant or simply live without the symptoms of PCOS.
Early Treatment of PCOS
In an unrelated yet still remarkable study, doctors at the University of Barcelona found that treating young women with PCOS with anti-androgens and insulin-sensitizers alleviated the symptoms of PCOS and yield more ovulations. The study was quite interesting and has some very real applications although the cocktail of pharmaceuticals used have not been cleared for prescription as of yet. The doctors studied 36 women with an average age of 16 who all were diagnosed with PCOS. Half of the women were provided with an oral contraceptive containing estrogen and progestogen, the other half of the women were given a drug called SPIOMET, which contained anti-androgens and the insulin-sensitizers. The thought was that if doctors could combat the known causes of PCOS perhaps it can be treated, allowing these women to become pregnant later on in life. The women were also advised to follow a diet and exercise to decrease the amount of hepatic and visceral fat in their bodies. Measurements of androgens levels, progesterone levels, cardiovascular health, and ovulations were recorded. In the end researchers found that those who were on SPIOMET had more normalized levels of hepatic and visceral fat which remained after treatment was over. They also noted there was a 2.5-fold higher ovulation rate and a six-fold increase in normal ovulation in women who were taking SPIOMET as opposed to those on contraceptives. This is encouraging news for fertility doctors, because it signals the treatment of PCOS with androgen-based science which can significantly alter how women with PCOS view their fertility.
Treating PCOS Today
Today at our Viera Fertility Center we take a very personal approach to treating PCOS. If you have been diagnosed with this disorder your goals are taken into consideration. If you are not seeking to become pregnant, hormonal birth control medications can help to regulate the menstrual cycle and alleviate many of the symptoms of PCOS. However, many women who visit our Viera facility, becoming pregnant is the goal. In this case insulin-sensitizers and fertility medications will be prescribed based on your specific condition.
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS and are seeking answers on how to live with your condition or to become pregnant schedule your appointment today.