Sex Talk

What are the treatment options for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your sex questions

12 August 2018 - 00:00
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a common gynaecological problem.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a common gynaecological problem.
Image: 123RF/rangizzz

Q: I have been diagnosed with PCOS, or polycystic ovaries. Please tell me more about it.

A: The term "polycystic ovaries" means that there are lots of tiny cysts, or bumps, inside the ovaries. Some women have a few, while others may have several large cysts.

Having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) means that the ovaries aren't getting the right (hormonal) signals from the pituitary gland in your brain. The imbalance in the hormones affects the levels of other hormones, such as insulin from the pancreas.

PCOS is a common gynaecological problem and can affect teen girls and young women. Globally, almost 1 out of 10 women has PCOS.

PCOS can begin during your teens and can be mild or severe. The hormonal imbalance can cause different symptoms and can affect different systems in the body. The most common symptoms are: irregular menstrual cycle; and overgrowth of hair on the face or other parts of your body.

Many people with PCOS have higher levels of insulin in their blood and this can cause patches of darkened skin on the back of your neck, under your arms, and in your groin area (inside upper thighs).

PCOS does not affect the health of the uterus and may affect only one side of the ovaries. The hormonal imbalance can be such that many women with PCOS do not ovulate and have difficulty getting pregnant, but some women have no trouble at all.

You will most likely need to have a blood test to check your hormone levels, blood sugar, and lipids (including cholesterol). Many doctors have access to an ultrasound and can confirm the presence of larger ovaries and of cysts specific to PCOS.

Talk to your doctor about options, including medications to lower your insulin levels or to help you ovulate each month. Even if you're not sexually active, contraceptive pills may be helpful because they contain the hormones that your body needs to treat your PCOS.

The most important treatment for PCOS is working towards a healthy lifestyle that includes a low-carb diet and exercise. Surgery is not always indicated; the quality of life and fertility needs must be taken into consideration. Ask your healthcare provider about the various treatment options.

• Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, Disa Clinic,

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