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Treating and Managing PCOS

If you’ve been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), working with your health care provider and medical team is important to take care of your symptoms and stay healthy.

At Banner Health, we’re here to help support you. Keep reading to learn more about how to treat and manage common PCOS symptoms.

What specialists help with PCOS?

After a PCOS diagnosis, you will work with a health care team that may include the following professionals:

  • Primary care provider (PCP): They are often the first to diagnose and manage PCOS. They may also refer you to a specialist.
  • Gynecologist: Specializes in female reproductive health, including PCOS. They can provide treatment options, answer questions about fertility and offer advice on managing PCOS symptoms.
  • Endocrinologist: PCOS often causes hormonal imbalances, so a hormone specialist like an endocrinologist can help manage these issues.
  • Dietitian or nutritionist: These specialists create a personalized diet plan to manage weight and insulin resistance, which are common concerns with PCOS.
  • Behavioral health specialist: Offers support and strategies for managing stress, anxiety and depression, which are often linked to PCOS.
  • Dermatologist: PCOS can lead to skin issues, such as acne and excess hair growth on the face (hirsutism). A dermatologist can address these skin-related concerns and offer treatment options.
  • Fertility specialist: Helps with advanced treatments and advice if you have trouble getting pregnant.

How is PCOS treated and managed?

PCOS is a lifelong (chronic) condition, but its symptoms can be managed. This includes fixing irregular menstrual periods, managing extra hair growth and skin problems, controlling sugar levels, weight gain and more.

Fixing irregular or missed periods

Your provider may recommend a combination of lifestyle changes, medications and hormonal therapies:

  • Lifestyle changes: Making healthy changes is usually the first step. This means eating a balanced diet, staying active and not doing things that hurt you, like smoking or drinking too much. These changes can help regulate your hormones and periods.
  • Hormonal contraceptives: Your provider may prescribe medicines to help re-establish regular periods and skin acne. These may include birth control pills, progesterone, hormonal implants, vaginal contraceptive rings or intrauterine devices (IUDs) containing progesterone to help restore regular periods.
  • Metformin: Your provider may prescribe metformin for insulin resistance, especially if you have metabolic-related  PCOS. It can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce high levels of androgens and help your period return regularly. Talk to your provider about risks and side effects.

Treating extra facial hair and skin problems

Extra body hair, thinning hair and acne can impact your self-esteem and confidence.

Your provider can work with you to find ways to fix them. One of the most common treatment options is the use of birth control. It can be used to treat acne, excessive hair growth and hair loss.

Other treatment options include:

  • For extra hair: Try waxing, laser hair removal or electrolysis. Laser is the best choice for making hair go away for good, but it takes time, may be expensive and may not work if you have light or fine hair. A cream called Vaniqa can slow facial hair growth.
  • For thinning hair or hair loss: Minoxidil is a medicine that can be used on the scalp to help with hair growth. However, it is not recommended if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
  • For acne and dry skin patches: Some pills and topical creams or gels may help improve your skin.

Dealing with weight gain

Although not everyone with PCOS experiences weight problems, those with insulin resistance or high blood sugar levels, may find it tough to control their weight. However, even a slight weight loss can make a big difference in symptoms.

To lose weight, you have a few options:

  • Healthy lifestyle: Eating well and staying active can help. A Mediterranean-style diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats and fresh fruits and vegetables is a good choice.
  • Medicines: Some research has found that medications like metformin can help with symptoms and weight loss. Talk to your provider about potential risks and side effects.
  • Surgery: If you have a large amount of weight to lose, bariatric (weight loss) surgery may help. Your provider can let you know if this is an option for you.

Your health care provider and a registered dietitian or nutritionist will work with you to determine the best weight loss plan.

Problems getting pregnant

Simple lifestyle changes may help with infertility. Treatment options you may discuss with your provider include:

  • Ovulation-inducing drugs: To start a successful pregnancy, you need to release an egg. People with PCOS can take certain medicines to make this happen, including metformin, clomiphene and letrozole.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF): When medicines don’t work for ovulation, your provider may recommend IVF. In this procedure, your provider combines your egg and sperm in a lab. Once the egg is fertilized, they put it into your uterus to hopefully make a baby.
  • Surgery: Surgery has been used to correct PCOS-related ovulation issues by removing certain tissues, but it is rarely recommended or performed these days.

Learn more about pregnancy and PCOS.

Managing stress, anxiety and depression

Many people with PCOS face mental health issues. Tackling these issues is just as important as your improving your physical health.

Here are steps to help manage your mental health:

  • Lifestyle changes: Studies show that regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and doing relaxation activities like meditation and deep breathing are some of the most important changes you can make to improve your mental health.
  • Therapy and counseling: Therapy with a licensed behavioral health specialist can be very effective in learning how to manage stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Medication: Sometimes, your provider may give you medicine to help with anxiety or depression. Talk to your provider to decide if this is the right choice for you.
  • PCOS support groups: Joining a PCOS-focused support group may help you feel like you belong and are less alone. Sharing stories and experiences can be comforting.

Learn more about living with PCOS and improving your physical and emotional health

Schedule an appointment

If you struggle to manage your PCOS symptoms, schedule an appointment with one of our Banner Health specialists. We’re here to provide expert guidance and treatment options tailored to your unique needs.