Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) - Issaquah, WA

Our Physicians Can Help You Successfully Navigate PCOS 

Welcome to Cascade Integrative Medicine in Issaquah, WA, where our compassionate doctors provide comprehensive care for patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder affecting women of reproductive age, often leading to irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, and hormonal imbalances. Our dedicated doctors work closely with each patient to develop personalized treatment plans, incorporating a holistic approaches, when applicable, that may involve lifestyle modifications, dietary guidance, hormonal management, and integrative therapies to address the unique challenges posed by PCOS.

About polycystic ovarian syndrome

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects people with ovaries, typically during their reproductive years. It’s characterized by a variety of symptoms, including irregular menstrual cycles, excess levels of androgens (male hormones) in the body, and the presence of multiple small cysts on the ovaries.

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but factors such as genetics, insulin resistance, and inflammation may contribute to its development. Common signs and symptoms include irregular or absent periods, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, and fertility challenges.

PCOS can have long-term implications for a person’s overall health, potentially increasing the risk of conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and endometrial cancer. Treatment often focuses on managing symptoms and addressing associated health concerns. This may involve lifestyle changes, hormonal birth control to regulate menstrual cycles, medications to manage insulin levels, fertility treatments for those trying to conceive, and other approaches tailored to an individual’s needs. A comprehensive and personalized approach to managing PCOS is essential for improving quality of life and reducing associated health risks.

What causes PCOS?

While the exact cause of polycystic ovarian syndrome is not fully understood, research suggests that a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors play a significant role.

Genetics seem to be a key player in PCOS development. If a close family member, like a sister or mother, has PCOS, you might be more likely to have it too. Certain genes can affect how your body makes and processes insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Insulin resistance, where your body doesn’t use insulin effectively, is a common feature of PCOS. This can lead to higher levels of insulin in your body, triggering your ovaries to produce more androgens, often called male hormones. These elevated androgen levels can disrupt your menstrual cycles and lead to symptoms like irregular periods, acne, and excess hair growth.

Inflammation, which is your body’s response to injury or infection, may also be involved in PCOS. It can worsen insulin resistance and further elevate androgen levels.

Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and excess weight can worsen insulin resistance and exacerbate PCOS symptoms. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and proper weight management can help manage PCOS effectively.

Understanding these factors can empower individuals dealing with PCOS to make informed choices about their health, including adopting a healthy lifestyle and working with healthcare professionals to develop personalized treatment plans.

PCOS symptoms

One of the main symptoms of PCOS is irregular menstrual cycles. This means your periods might be unpredictable, sometimes coming too frequently or too infrequently. PCOS can also cause excess hair growth on the face, chest, or back, and sometimes severe acne. Many people with PCOS may struggle with weight gain or have a hard time losing weight.

Some might experience trouble getting pregnant due to irregular ovulation or missed periods. PCOS can also lead to health issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

It’s important to know that not everyone with PCOS will experience all these symptoms. Each person can have a different combination and severity of symptoms.

If you notice these signs, it’s a good idea to speak with one of our doctors. They can help diagnose PCOS and work with you on a treatment plan to manage your symptoms and improve your overall well-being. Early diagnosis and proper management are key to living a healthy life with PCOS.

How PCOS is diagnosed

Diagnosing polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) involves a combination of understanding your symptoms, medical history, a physical examination, and specific tests.

Our doctors typically start by discussing your menstrual history, weight changes, and any signs of excess hair growth or acne. They’ll also ask about your family’s medical history to see if there’s a pattern of PCOS.

A physical exam often includes checking your blood pressure, BMI (body mass index), and looking for physical signs like excess hair growth or skin changes.

Blood tests can help measure hormone levels, including androgens (like testosterone) and insulin. High levels of these hormones are often associated with PCOS.

Ultrasound imaging is another tool. During this painless test, sound waves create pictures of your ovaries. For PCOS, the ovaries may have small cysts or appear enlarged.  You may be referred for ultrasound imaging if PCOS is suspected.

It’s important to know that not everyone with PCOS will have cysts, and some people may have cysts but not have PCOS.

The diagnosis is usually made when you have at least two out of three key features: irregular periods, high levels of androgens (or signs of them), and cysts on the ovaries.

Getting an accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective management and treatment. If you suspect you may have PCOS, reach out to one of our doctors to discuss your symptoms and concerns and to undergo appropriate testing for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome

Treating Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is all about managing the symptoms and improving your overall health. While there’s no cure, various approaches can make a significant difference in your quality of life.

  • Lifestyle Changes: A healthy lifestyle is often the first line of treatment. This includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. Research shows that even a modest weight loss can improve PCOS symptoms, menstrual regularity, and hormone levels.
  • Medications: Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medications. Birth control pills can regulate your menstrual cycles and reduce androgen levels. Metformin, a diabetes medication, is often used to improve insulin resistance and help regulate your menstrual cycles. In some cases, fertility medications might be prescribed if you’re trying to get pregnant.
  • Nutritional Counseling: Working with a dietitian or nutritionist can be beneficial. They can help you plan a diet that supports weight management and blood sugar control, which is particularly important for those with PCOS.
  • Anti-Androgen Medications: These medications can help reduce symptoms like excess hair growth and acne, which are often caused by high levels of male hormones.
  • Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART): For those struggling with infertility due to PCOS, ART methods like in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be considered.
  • Surgery: In some cases, a minor surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling may be recommended to help restore ovulation.

It’s important to work closely with one of our physicians to tailor a treatment plan to your specific needs. Regular check-ups and open communication with your provider can help monitor progress and adjust treatments as necessary. Remember, with the right approach, it’s possible to effectively manage PCOS and lead a fulfilling life.