What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?

Medicines to Lower Androgen Levels
Medications called anti-androgens can help reduce unwanted hair growth and clear up acne in women with PCOS. In particular, a medicine called spironolactone (Aldactone®), which was first used to treat high blood pressure, has been shown to reduce the effects of male hormones on hair growth in women. Another medicine called finasteride (Propecia®) is used by men for hair loss, but can also be helpful for women.
In many cases, anti-androgens are taken in combination with birth control pills. Anti-androgens, however, should not be taken if you want to become pregnant. In fact, women who want to become pregnant should not even handle drugs like Propecia due to the potential risks.
Some other options for treating unwanted hair include:
  • Vaniqa® (eflornithine) cream to reduce facial hair
  • Laser hair removal or electrolysis to remove hair
  • Hormonal treatment to keep new hair from growing.
A procedure known as "ovarian drilling" may be used to increase the chance of ovulation. It can be used when other fertility medications have failed. This procedure is done by laparoscopy, which involves a healthcare provider making a small cut above or below the navel (belly button) and inserting a small tool that looks like a telescope into the abdomen (stomach).
The healthcare provider then punctures the ovary with a small needle carrying an electric current to destroy a small portion of the ovary. The purpose of the surgery is to lower male hormone levels and help with ovulation. However, this procedure also increases the risk for developing scar tissue on the ovary. Also, the beneficial effects of this procedure may only last a few months.
Another surgery that may be beneficial is bariatric (weight loss) surgery. In extremely obese women, this procedure may be effective in relieving PCOS symptoms.
Although many types of treatments are available for women with PCOS, some may be more effective than others. In many cases, women may need to use a combination of treatments to help manage symptoms.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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