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What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Treatment?

By Lindsay Kahl
Updated May 17, 2024
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Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the most common hormonal disorder for women of childbearing age. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have excessive levels of androgens, or male hormones; irregular menstrual periods; and cysts on their ovaries. The symptoms of the syndrome can vary from woman to woman, but they can affect fertility, cardiovascular function, insulin levels and appearance. Polycystic ovarian syndrome treatment focuses on a woman’s particular symptoms or concerns and can include lifestyle changes, diabetes medication, birth control pills, anti-androgens, fertility medication and surgery.

The first polycystic ovarian syndrome treatment recommended by doctors typically is for the patient to make lifestyle changes regarding diet and exercise. Many women with the syndrome gain weight or become obese and subsequently are at a greater risk for developing high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. For women with the syndrome, losing weight can help regulate the levels of androgens and insulin and can reduce cardiovascular risk. In some cases, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome can lose enough weight to restore ovulation and regular menstrual cycles.

Some doctors prescribe certain diabetes medication as part of polycystic ovarian syndrome treatment. The medication metformin can help manage insulin and reduce testosterone production in some women. It also could lower cholesterol levels, improve ovulation and reduce abnormal hair growth that is the result of excessive male hormones.

Another common polycystic ovarian syndrome treatment is the use of birth control pills. For women who do not wish to become pregnant, a doctor might prescribe a birth control pill containing estrogen and progesterone. The pill can help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, lower levels of male hormones and improve acne, which is a common symptom of the syndrome. With decreased levels of male hormones, some women also could experience a reduction in excessive hair. Taking the birth control pill can also reduce a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer.

A doctor might recommend medications called anti-androgens for some patients. These medications can reduce excessive hair growth and treat acne. Often, these types of medications are used in conjunction with the birth control pill.

Many women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have problems with infertility. These women might not ovulate because of irregular menstrual cycles. For a woman who wishes to become pregnant, a doctor could recommend fertility medication to stimulate ovulation. If a woman still cannot become pregnant after making lifestyle changes and taking fertility drugs, she might consider in vitro fertilization.

Another polycystic ovarian syndrome treatment for infertility is a surgery referred to as “ovarian drilling.” During this procedure, a doctor makes an incision in the woman’s abdomen and punctures the ovary. Ovarian drilling can help lower a woman’s level of male hormones and possibly stimulate ovulation.

There is no cure for polycystic ovarian syndrome, but many women can manage their symptoms successfully. A woman with the syndrome should have regular checkups and discuss treatment options with her doctor. Women can reduce the risk of developing complications by getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet.

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