Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (pcos) - Treatment Overview


Apr 29, 2012
(PCOS) - Treatment Overview
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a group of health problems caused by out-of-balance hormones. It often involves irregular menstrual periods beginning in puberty or difficulty getting pregnant.

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, and weight control are all important parts of treatment for PCOS. Sometimes, also using a medicine to balance hormones is helpful.

There is no cure for PCOS, but controlling it lowers your PCOS risks of infertility, miscarriages, diabetes, heart disease, and uterine cancer.

Initial treatment
The first step in managing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking. This is a medical treatment for PCOS, not just a lifestyle choice. Additional treatments depend on your symptoms and whether you are planning a pregnancy.

  • If you are overweight, a small amount of weight loss is likely to help balance your hormones and start up your menstrual cycle and ovulation. Use regular exercise and a healthy weight-loss diet as your first big treatment step. This is especially important if you're planning a pregnancy.
  • If you smoke, consider quitting. Women who smoke have higher levels of androgens than women who don't smoke.1 Smoking also increases your risk of heart disease.
  • If you are planning a pregnancy and weight loss doesn't improve your fertility, your doctor may suggest a medicine that helps lower insulin. With weight loss, this can improve your chances of ovulation and pregnancy. Fertility drug treatment may also help start ovulation.7
  • If you are not planning a pregnancy, you can also use hormone therapy to help control your ovary hormones. To correct menstrual cycle problems, birth control hormones keep your endometrial lining from building up for too long. This is what prevents uterine cancer. Hormone therapy can also help with male-type hair growth and acne.2Birth control pills, patches, or vaginal rings are prescribed for hormone therapy. Androgen-lowering spironolactone (Aldactone) is often used with estrogen-progestin birth control pills. This helps with hair loss, acne, and male-pattern hair growth on the face and body (hirsutism).2
Taking hormones does not help with heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes risks. This is why exercise and a healthy diet are a key part of your treatment.

For helpful information, see:

  • A registered dietitian who has special knowledge about diabetes.
  • The topic Healthy Eating.
  • The topic Fitness.
  • Physical activity for weight loss.
  • The topic Quitting Smoking.

Additional treatments for menstrual cycle and hair and skin problems

Other treatments for PCOS problems include:

  • Hair removal with laser, electrolysis, waxing, tweezing, or chemicals.
  • Skin treatments. Acne medicines can be nonprescription or prescription. Some are taken by mouth and some are applied to the skin. (For more information, see the topic Acne.) Skin tag removal is not needed unless the tags are irritating, such as a tag on an eyelid. In general they can be removed easily by your doctor.