Allegiance Group

Ask the Gynecologist: Understanding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Ask the Gynecologist: Understanding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)


Ask the Gynecologist: Understanding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)


What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex metabolic and hormonal condition.

It is often underdiagnosed in many women and unfortunately could lead to many reproductive and health implications. In this blog, I will go over the basics of PCOS, such as definition, symptoms, general treatment, and lifestyle modifications you could make if diagnosed with PCOS.

So, what is PCOS? PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder affecting reproductive-aged women, with a prevalence of between 8% and 13%. There’s no universally accepted definition for PCOS. It is often diagnosed by the presence of two of the three following criteria: hyperandrogenism, ovulatory dysfunction, and polycystic ovaries on ultrasound. Because these findings may have multiple causes other than PCOS, a careful, targeted history and physical examination are required to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Where does it come from? Why do I have it? This syndrome is multi-factorial and the different susceptibility of patients is probably determined by several genetic and environmental risk factors. Ethnicity also plays a role.

How do I know if I have PCOS?

You may be asymptomatic or you may have multiple gynecologic, dermatologic, or metabolic manifestations — such as high levels of androgen hormones, irregular or lack of periods, ovarian cysts on ultrasound, infertility, obesity, mood disorders, oily skin, and acne, among other symptoms.

It’s not necessary that you have all the symptoms of PCOS to be diagnosed, and the clinical presentation of PCOS is very variable (hence the environmental predisposition). If you have symptoms that may be consistent with PCOS, discuss your health with your provider so appropriate evaluation is taken.

Why is it important to have an appropriate diagnosis?

Patients with PCOS may be at risk of metabolic syndrome (a condition that increases the risk of diabetes, heart diseases, elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and sleep apnea), infertility, and endometrial hyperplasia. This is why it is important to have regular visits with your gynecologist or primary care physician for routine blood work and healthcare maintenance to check routinely on all the conditions above and manage accordingly.

I was diagnosed with PCOS, now what?

Fortunately, we have a variety of treatments available to address most of the conditions present in PCOS. Treatment is tailored to each woman according to her symptoms and whether she wants to get pregnant or not.

For treating your menstrual irregularities, we often use combination birth control pills (if you do not wish to become pregnant) or other hormonal methods that you could discuss with your doctors such as the ring, progesterone-only pills, or the IUD. Not only do they help regulate the menstrual cycle, but pills also reduce hirsutism and acne!  They also decrease the risk of ovarian cysts and endometrial cancer by making the lining of the uterus thinner.  

For overweight women, weight loss alone often regulates the menstrual cycle. Studies showed even a small weight loss of 10 to 15 pounds can be helpful in making your periods more regular. Weight loss also improves your cholesterol level and the insulin resistance that is at the core of PCOS. Some drugs used to treat diabetes such as metformin could be added to your treatment plan if found necessary.

If you’re trying to get pregnant, weight loss for overweight women could sometimes help achieve that. Comiphene citrate and letrozole are the drugs most commonly used to aid in ovulation and achieve pregnancy under proper medical care.

What could I do to help my body if I have PCOS?

Maintain a healthy lifestyle!

Regular exercise improves your sensitivity to insulin and metabolic syndrome and balances your hormones, helping with menstrual irregularities, ovulation, and pregnancy. Try to avoid food high in sugar and maintain a diet rich in protein and healthy fat. Also avoid food that triggers inflammation and help yourself with natural anti-inflammatories such as turmeric, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Always discuss your lifestyle and diet with your providers to ensure you’re getting the appropriate care.

It’s also very important to reduce your stress level and meditate frequently. Stress could negatively impact your metabolic process and alter your hormones throwing your natural physiology off balance.

I hope the information above provides you with an understanding of PCOS and helps guide you in your hormonal and metabolic health. Always address any concerns with your doctors when it comes to changes you feel in your body. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!

For more information, watch the Facebook Live conversation with Dr. West and Dr. Hammoud.


Dr. Nadine Hammoud is an award-winning gynecologist with Fairfax Gynecology Group, and she’s also active in education and research. She formerly served as an assistant professor at VCU and currently serves on the faculty at the University of Virginia Inova Campus.

Interested in becoming a member of Eileen West, MD and Associates?

Schedule a Meet & Greet

Join Us On Social

Eileen West, MD
Eileen West, MD about 11 hrs ago
facebook

The scenario plays out like this… you’re sitting at home watching reruns of Friends when your vision blurs. Minutes later your head feels like it's set in a vice, and someone is cranking the lever. With your head throbbing, the nausea kicks in. After making a bathroom stop (goodbye lunch), you climb into bed and pull the covers over your face, lying still in the dark. Can you relate? This is called migraine, and sadly this illness is all too common. ● Approximately 39 million people in the US and 1 billion people worldwide have migraines ● Most people with migraine have 1 to 2 attacks per month which can extend from 4 hours to 3 days ● 36 billion is spent each year on healthcare and loss of productivity due to migraines Add onto those staggering stats this surprise—WOMEN are at greatest risk. Studies show that 8 out of 10 people with migraine are females. While research isn’t fully conclusive as to why, the data points to women’s hormone levels changing. ➡️ If you are battling migraines, please know that you do not need to suffer alone. At Eileen West, MD, and Associates, we are here to help you find the right treatment to prevent migraines and make them less painful. You have a life to lead. We’re here to help you on that journey and provide exceptional care. ⭐️ June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month. Share your migraine questions below… We’d love to help. #youdeservebetter #msmedicine #fairfaxphysician #conciergemedicine #lifestylemedicine #doctorsofinstagram #femalephysician #womenshealth #fairfaxdoctor #fairfax #fairfaxva #fxva #dc #washington #loveVA #fairfaxcounty #virginia #northernvirginia #nova #dcarea #dmv #va #nham

Eileen West, MD
Eileen West, MDabout 2 days ago
facebook

IT’S SELF-CARE SUNDAY. We’re back this week to focus on the importance of self-care and giving you tips on how to practically care for the physical, mental, emotional, & social parts of you. Today’s self-care tip is simple but necessary: Find Ways To Relax Our American society prides itself on doing, doing, doing. Here’s the truth - busy doesn’t equal beneficial. We need a balance of work, play, and rest. Your mind, body, and emotions need periods of relaxation in order to refuel. Here are 10 Ways You Can Relax: ● Meditate ● Do Yoga ● Get a massage ● Take a nature walk or hike ● Journal ● Swim ● Listen to calming music ● Sit in the sun ● Color ● Read a book Self-care isn’t selfish, it is essential. Your brain and body need downtime. Do yourself a favor & RELAX. ➡️ What is your favorite way to relax? Tell us in the comments. #youdeservebetter #msmedicine #fairfaxphysician #conciergemedicine #lifestylemedicine #doctorsofinstagram #femalephysician #womenshealth #fairfax

Eileen West, MD
Eileen West, MDabout 6 days ago
facebook

More than 80% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. Hot flashes can occur during the day or night and have a range of severity. If you fall into the category of moderate to severe, here are 6 tips to help you find relief: 1. Keep the temperature in your home cool. 2. Reduce stress with yoga, tai chi, meditation, biofeedback, acupuncture & massage. 3. Eliminate hot drinks, hot foods, alcohol, caffeine, and cigarette smoking 4. Wear light, breathable clothing during the day and to bed. 5. Sleep with cooling products, including sprays, gels, and a cool-fabric pillow. Use layered bedding that can be easily removed during the night. Cool down with a bedside fan. 6. When a hot flash is starting, try “paced respiration”—slow, deep, abdominal breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe only 5 to 7 times per minute, much more slowly than usual. ➡️ There are some prescription treatments to help with menopausal symptoms. Talk with your primary care doctor to discuss the best path for you. If you currently are seeking a provider, we are here to advocate for your total wellbeing and provide knowledgeable and personal care. Please reach out to schedule an appointment and learn more about how we can help! References: The North American Menopause Society (mnflashes.pdf), Stat from National Library of Medicine #youdeservebetter #msmedicine #fairfaxphysician #conciergemedicine #lifestylemedicine #doctorsofinstagram #femalephysician #womenshealth #fairfaxdoctor #fairfax #fairfaxva #fxva #dc #washington #loveVA #fairfaxcounty #virginia #northernvirginia #nova #dcarea #dmv #va #menopause

Let’s connect

Seeking more information?
Ready to schedule a meet-and-greet, health consult, or COVID-19 test?
Complete the form below and we will contact you shortly.

Existing patients: please contact us through your Patient Portals

Let's Connect
Copyright © 2022 Eileen West, MD and Associates. All rights reserved. Powered by Practice Builders Healthcare Marketing Agency.
Schedule a Meet & Greet