Better understanding and treatment of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects more than 5 million women in the USA. Common symptoms of PCOS include acne, excess facial and body hair growth (also called hirsutism), overweight/obesity, insulin resistance, and abnormal menstrual periods. PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility. Women with PCOS are also at a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and endometrial cancer.  Researchers are trying to better understand this condition so that they can improve its treatment and lessen its impact on women’s health.

While there is some agreement that the symptoms of PCOS are due to excess androgens, including testosterone, researchers are still uncertain as to the exact cause of PCOS. PCOS may be the result of a combination of genetic, inherited factors as well as environmental factors. Women with PCOS often have a sister or mother with the condition. PCOS may also be triggered by environmental factors such as weight gain later in life. The womb environment may also play a role in the development of PCOS.

Oral contraceptives have generally been used to treat PCOS. However, in a recent paper in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Lourdes Ibanez of the University of Barcelona reported that metformin, a common treatment for PCOS, along with an insulin sensitizer called pioliazone and flutamide performed better than oral contraceptives in treating PCOS.

Clomiphene (clomid) has been the most common treatment for women with PCOS who are trying to get pregnant. However, early results of research by Dr. Eisenberg, project scientist of the Reproductive Medicine Network, and Dr. Legro, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and public health sciences at Penn State University College of Medicine, indicate that a medication called letrozole, commonly used for IVF, appears to result in more births to women with PCOS than clomiphene.

These researchers and others continue to work to solve the mystery of PCOS, in an effort to offer hope to the millions of women who are affected by this condition.

Read more about current research into PCOS treatment here.

Read more about PCOS here and here.


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