Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
WHAT IS POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS)?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is an endocrine disorder characterized by clusters of small, fluid-filled cysts within enlarged ovaries of women with this condition. PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in the U.S., affecting approximately 14 percent of women who are of child-bearing age. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome occurs when elevated levels of testosterone and insulin disrupt the body’s pituitary feedback loop coordination.
Although this syndrome is typically associated with reproduction, it is also linked to several life-threatening medical illnesses, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol levels
- Endometrial cancer
- Endometrial hyperplasia (abnormal thickening of the uterine wall)
- Type II diabetes
- Insulin resistance
- Metabolic syndrome (a variety of health problems that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke)
CAUSES OF PCOS
The cause of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is unknown. It is typically associated with an imbalance of testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, and insulin resistance is often involved. This hormonal imbalance leads to the growth of cysts on the ovaries.
Genetic predisposition does play a role in PCOS; however, a woman’s diet and lifestyle also affect whether she will develop Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. For example, the same factors that cause type II diabetes and insulin resistance cause PCOS. Therefore, a diet that is low in plant fiber, but high in processed carbohydrates and sugars contribute to the development of this syndrome.
Since this PCOS manifests itself through a combination of signs and symptoms instead of having a single cause or presentation, this condition is considered a syndrome as opposed to a disease.
The connection between Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and blood sugar
Specific blood tests can help identify PCOS: These blood tests include fasting blood sugar as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Results indicative of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome:
- A fasting blood glucose level above 100
- Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels (especially if the triglycerides are elevated higher than the cholesterol is)
These are the same lab markers used to diagnose insulin resistance (pre-diabetes). Insulin resistance refers to a condition in which the cells of the body become less sensitive to insulin. Insulin is the main anabolic hormone in the body and plays an important role in your body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates. Since the body turns carbohydrates into glucose (a simple sugar), consuming carbohydrates increases blood glucose levels. If the glucose level in the body is too high, the pancreas releases insulin as a means to lower it. Women who are insulin resistant are more likely to develop Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
Causes of insulin resistance include:
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Consuming a diet consisting mostly of carbohydrates and foods with high-sugar levels
Insulin resistance leads to high testosterone levels in women. High testosterone causes the cells to become even more resistant; therefore, the body creates more testosterone and the cycle continues. To be diagnosed with PCOS, a woman must have at least two of the indicators listed below.
Primary indicators of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome:
- Clinical verification of an overabundance of male hormones (testosterone)
- Polycystic ovaries – confirmed through an ultrasound (must have at least 12 cysts on the ovaries)
- Irregular menstrual cycle/Lack of menstrual cycle
There is not a definitive test for diagnosing PCOS. For this reason, a diagnosis is attained through the exclusion of other conditions that could cause similar symptoms.
SYMPTOMS OF PCOS
This syndrome causes a multitude of symptoms that affect various parts of the body, symptoms include:
- Irregular/Absent/Lengthy menstrual periods
- Ovarian cysts
- Infertility (poor ovulation, complications during pregnancy and/or recurrent miscarriages)
- Dandruff, oily skin or acne
- Dark, thickened patches of skin (appearing on the thighs, arms, breasts or neck) and/or skin tags
- Excess weight (typically around the abdominal area)
- Sleep apnea
- Pelvic pain
- Long-term inflammation
- Depression or anxiety
- Male-pattern baldness (due to the excess male hormones)
- Deepening of the voice
- An indifferent personality/Uncharacteristically aggressive
- Facial hair as well as hair growth on the back, stomach, chest, and buttocks
- Decreased sex drive
In addition, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome increases a woman’s odds of having a baby that develops an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by 60 percent.
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CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT OF PCOS
Conventional medicine does not have a successful treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. In traditional medicine, the root cause of this syndrome is not treated; instead, treatments are designed to address the symptoms of PCOS, lower the patient’s risk of diabetes and heart disease, as well as assist the patient if she wishes to conceive.
Conventional treatments for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Birth control pills - to control the patient’s menstrual cycles, help clear acne and address excessive hair growth by reducing testosterone production.
Topical creams and medications - for hair loss and excessive hair growth.
Medications used to treat diabetes to control blood sugar, once controlled, testosterone production will decrease as well. This will slow down abnormal hair growth. After using these medications for a few months, ovulation may resume.
Women who wish to conceive may need to take medications to stimulate their ovaries; however, these medications increase the risk for multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.).
Surgical intervention to induce ovulation - a laparoscopic procedure that is referred to as ovarian drilling involves puncturing the polycystic ovary several times. Once punctured, the patient’s testosterone level usually decreases and regular menstrual cycles resume, but these regular cycles are only temporary.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome; however, Dr. Jorge Peláez helps his patients with a comprehensive approach.
Patients can aid in reducing their symptoms by:
- Exercising at least 20 minutes a day
- Eating brightly-colored fruits and vegetables
- Taking herbal supplements known to effectively treat the symptoms of PCOS
- Decreasing physical and emotional stress levels
- Getting an adequate amount of rest
- Eliminating excess weight through diet and exercise
- Minimizing the use of endocrine disruptors, such as non-organic items and beauty products that contain chemicals
- Avoiding other endocrine disruptors, including pollution
If you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, contact Dr. Jorge Peláez at Florida Health & Wellness Institute today. He is dedicated to helping his patients reach optimal health through a combination of conventional and integrative medicine. Click below to schedule your initial consultation.