Story by: Norton Healthcare on September 29, 2020
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common condition caused by an imbalance of hormones that results in small cysts growing on the ovaries. PCOS mostly affects women in their late teens and 20s, and can cause irregular periods or infertility, as well as other health issues. PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility. When should you see your OB/GYN?
PCOS is more common than you may realize. It affects 6% to 12% (as many as 5 million) of U.S. women of reproductive age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chronic condition is treatable and can be managed effectively working with your OB/GYN. If you’re having irregular periods and suspect something isn’t right, it’s probably time to see a gynecologist.
Diagnosing and treating PCOS early can help control symptoms and prevent long-term issues from developing, including diabetes, heart disease and uterine cancer.
Common symptoms of PCOS can include:
PCOS is treated differently depending on your goals.
“For patients who aren’t trying to get pregnant, PCOS can be treated with hormone therapy or birth control pills,” said Shannon O’Brien, D.O., OB/GYN with Norton OB/GYN Associates.
If a couple has been trying to conceive for a year and has not been successful, sometimes PCOS can be the reason, according to Dr. O’Brien.
“Sometimes medications that improve ovulation are needed to help a couple conceive,” Dr. O’Brien said.
Once you make an appointment, what should you expect from your doctor? According to Dr. O’Brien, it’s relatively simple to check for PCOS.
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“We want to find out about the patient’s health history and do a physical exam,” Dr. O’Brien said. “Bloodwork can inform us of abnormalities including thyroid issues, elevated cholesterol, increased blood glucose, and elevated testosterone. An ultrasound may be used to detect cysts on your ovaries. Our treatment plan will be tailored to manage your symptoms and help you achieve your health goals.”
Because PCOS can have serious consequences on your health, always see your doctor if something seems not right with your menstrual cycle.
“The good news is that there are treatment options for PCOS that make it very manageable,” Dr. O’Brien said. “What’s important for those with PCOS to know is that early diagnosis and treatment really can help prevent long-term health issues. Your gynecologist can treat PCOS, but only if you make that appointment for an evaluation.”
Being overweight can contribute to PCOS, so diet and exercise can help. They can go along with, but do not substitute for, a gynecologist’s care and treatment.
“You’ll want to talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your PCOS,” Dr. O’Brien said.
Even if you don’t have symptoms of PCOS, if you haven’t seen your OB/GYN in a while, now is a good time to make an appointment.
“Keeping an annual OB/GYN appointment is an important way you can help take charge of your health and discover any issues before they become more serious,” Dr. O’Brien said.
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