PCOS

Why it is important to manage PCOS properly via a multimodality approach

The one thing I see daily in practice is that many women with PCOS are not being managed properly with regards to their symptoms and future health implications.

Many women, who actually do have PCOS, have been misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, dismissed, or are not being managed properly at all. This is quite concerning as PCOS can have long and short-term term health implications and can also have an effect on fertility.

Every day I see women, who have irregular cycles and symptoms of PCOS (Acne, Hirsutism, weight issues, emotional issues etc), being told that they do not have PCO, or PCOS. Just today a colleague and myself had to call a radiology centre and get their head radiologist to go back and look over a scan of a woman who had been told she did not have Polycystic ovaries, and from the scan that we were viewing actually showed that she did have Polycystic Ovaries. There was a big rush around and a major apology and an updated scan report sent with the notation saying the patient has multiple cysts on the ovaries consistent with PCOS. This is exactly why so many women with PCO and PCOS are misdiagnosed, or not even diagnosed at all.

Just so everyone knows, scans and blood tests are not always accurate in the diagnosis of PCOS and new guidelines, published recently, for the diagnosis of PCOS now highlight this. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2018/209/7/new-evidence-based-guideline-assessment-and-management-polycystic-ovary-syndrome

The point I am trying to make is that many women are not aware they have PCO, or PCOS and the ones that do have the diagnosis, just are not being managed properly.

The main symptoms of PCOS

  1. Irregular or absent menses
  2. Acne
  3. Hirsutism (excess hair growth)
  4. Weight issues
  5. Emotional Issues (depression, anxiety etc)

Women with PCOS may only have 1-2 of the symptoms, or may have all of the symptoms combined. Up to 90% of women with acne will have PCOS, especially when combined with menstrual irregularities.

Many women with PCO and PCOS are completely unaware of the serious future, and sometimes present, health implications as a result of their disease state.

Women with PCO and PCOS are at very real danger of the following

  1. Type 2 diabetes
  2. Gestational diabetes
  3. Cardiovascular disease
  4. Infertility
  5. Recurrent Miscarriage
  6. Mood disorders (Depression and Anxiety)
  7. Weight issues (Obesity, Eating disorders etc)

All of the above are well known health risk factors for women with PCO and PCOS and this is not often explained to the patient.

Women with PCO and PCOS need to be educated that a multimodality approach is needed to treat and manage their disease state properly. The number one treatment for PCO and PCOS should always be diet and lifestyle modifications and interventions. The main focus should be on treating the main driver, being insulin resistance. Once this is achieved, many of the symptoms of PCO and PCOS will settle down as well. If remaining symptoms do not settle, then other treatments and health care management should be used.

The Pill

While the oral contraceptive pill can offer symptomatic relief of the symptoms of PCOS, it is not going to treat the underlying cause of the disease, nor is it going to be a cure. The other issue is that many women are having their underlying symptoms being masked by the contraceptive pill and completely unaware of the future health and fertility issues that can still be present. Women need to be made aware of this and often aren’t.

Metformin

While metformin is routinely used for women with PCO and PCOS, it does have a high side effect profile. Gastrointestinal and digestive upset are one of the major reasons many women stop taking it. It is also a category C drug and should not be used in pregnancy, as it is could affect the unborn baby. Metformin also has risk factors for depleting Vitamin B 12 and can lead to anaemia if used long term. Long-term use of metformin can also damage the liver and kidneys.

There are some very effective alternatives to Metformin, without the high side effect profile, and these can be discussed with you healthcare practitioner.

Modalities that assist PCOS

As mentioned before, PCO and PCOS can be effectively managed and assisted using a multimodality approach, which could include the following:

  1. Medical treatments and interventions
  2. Hormonal Therapies
  3. Surgical Intervention (Ovarian Drilling)
  4. Diet and Nutritional advice and modification
  5. Exercise
  6. Complementary Therapies and Complementary Medicines
  7. Vitamins and nutritional supplements
  8. Acupuncture
  9. Psychology and counselling
  10. Lifestyle changes
  11. Mindfulness
  12. Relaxation and meditation

Women with PCO and PCOS may need a few of the modalities combined and some may need all of them combined together. It would all depend on the individual and how bad their presenting symptoms are. A healthcare practitioner who specialises in this area will be able to tell you which modalities and therapies will be best for your individual needs.

PCO and PCOS can have long-term and short-term health consequences and some of these can be very serious. We need for practitioners and patients to know this. Education is key for any disease state and the facts also need to be presented as part of this education as well.

New guidelines have just been published by an Australian led international collaboration, to help improve the care, health outcomes and quality of life of women with PCO and PCOS. Key changes in the new guidelines include refinement of individual diagnostic criteria focusing on improving accuracy of diagnosis; reducing unnecessary testing; increased focus on education, lifestyle modification, emotional wellbeing and quality of life; and emphasising evidence-based medical therapy and appropriate fertility management.

A multimodality approach is something that I always talk about and has always been a part of my clinical approach to assisting women with PCO and PCOS. It is also something that I educate my fellow colleagues and practitioners on as well. Women who suffer from PCOS also need to be educated about this as well and why I will always continue to write these posts.

If you do have PCOS, or suspect that you may have PCOS, please make sure you get the help and care you should be getting and do not leave it too long to get that care and assistance as well. Make sure the person that you see also specialises in PCOS as well. If not, then find somebody who does. You can always book in to see me, in person, or via online consult, as well. I help people from all over the world.

 

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

-Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Medicine Expert

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Women with PCOS May Be at More Risk of Uterine Cancer

April 3, 2018 Researchers in the United Arab Emirates (UEA) have found that women who have Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome have an increased risk of uterine cancer, reducing their chances of fertility.

The researchers have also found that women, who are overweight, or obese, are also at increased risk of uterine cancer. Being overweight and obese also increases a woman’s chances of PCOS too, but not all women with PCOS are overweight.

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute last year has shown that  endometrial cancer diagnoses have increased in 26 of 43 countries, mainly due to increasing obesity cases which themselves have tripled in the last 40 years, according to World Health Organisation.

The experts believe that obese women are 10 times more likely to suffer from uterine cancer. Being overweight, or obese also puts women at risk of other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

There are other factors involves such as an imbalance in the hormones with over-exposure to estrogens can lead to endometrial cancer. This could be due to endogenous causes such as Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome, or exogenous causes such as unopposed estrogens in menopausal hormone therapy if progesterone is not prescribed.

Some women may have genetic family syndromes that is predispose to uterine cancer along with breast, ovarian and other cancers. The causes of uterine cancer may be multifactorial, but this new research does help with screening of women who are suffering from PCOS, or who maybe overweight, or obese.

The researchers did find that regular exercise and healthy lifestyle choices can serve as a protection against uterine cancer, but can also help with PCOS and obesity.

The researchers did warn that women in reproductive years should not take symptoms of endometrial cancer lightly, since early diagnosis and treatment is an essential key to fertility preservation.

Once a condition that only affected women of advanced years, increasing clinical evidence now suggests that even women below 40 years of age can be diagnosed with uterine cancer.

The cancer cases are on the rise due to higher incidence of known co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes mellitus and hypertension.

Symptoms of the endometrial cancer include:

  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • bleeding after menopause
  • an abnormal, watery or blood-tinged discharge from vagina
  • constant back and pelvic pain
  • unintended weight loss
  • fatigue and nausea

Early screening is essential and women can safely consider fertility preservation provided that the cancer is diagnosed in early stages.

Fact around uterine cancer

  • Early diagnosis of uterine cancer can save women from fertility loss
  • World over, an increasing number of women in reproductive years falling prey to the disease
  • Obese women are 10 times more likely to suffer from endometrial/uterine cancer, other causes include hypertension and diabetes
  • PCOS may now be a risk factor for uterine cancer

Women who have PCOS, or who are overweight, should be seeking help with dietary and lifestyle management to help prevent them from other risk factors such as certain cancers. The number one treatment for PCOS is changing to a low GI diet and doing regular exercise. One of the major causes of PCOS is insulin resistance and this is a big factor in many who are overweight, or obese, or have type 2 diabetes. All of these issues can be controlled with the right management.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

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Women with PCOS Have Four Times Higher Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

One of the hardest things I find that is hard to get through to women with PCOS, is their risk factors for type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and their increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It has long been known that the major driving factor behind PCOS is insulin resistance and this also increases the risk factor of developing diabetes for those with this endocrine/reproductive disorder.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is an endocrine/reproductive disorder that affects millions of women of reproductive age worldwide, and a new study has shown that it also put these women at a significant risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

PCOS is also the leading cause of female infertility and many women with this condition are often misdiagnosed, or do not know that they have it. PCOS is also a risk factor for miscarriage too. Please see my other posts about signs and symptoms of PCOS.  (Click Here)

All women with PCOS will have insulin resistance, either hereditary insulin resistance, or purely caused by diet and lifestyle choices. Insulin resistance is a condition wherein the muscles, fat, and liver do not respond properly to the hormone, so the body keeps producing more of it. Excessive insulin production is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. This is why it is so important for women with PCOS to follow a modified Ketogenic/low GI style diet and that the number one treatment for assisting PCOS (as recommended by the World Health Organisation) will always be diet and lifestyle changes.

Young women with PCOS at risk

This new study investigated 54,680 women in total and found that younger women with PCOS are now more at risk of developing diabetes than older women with the disease. The study found that the risk factor for developing diabetes is four times greater for younger women. This is probably due to poor diet and lifestyle choices that many young women are choosing these days.

The increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes is an important finding and this is something that women with this disease should know, especially those who are obese and have PCOS as well. But it is important for women that are of normal weight, or even underweight to know that they are also at an increased risk as well. Just because you are underweight, or of normal weight, doesn’t mean you cannot have PCOS, or be at risk of diabetes.

This new research was carried out by Denmark-based scientists and the findings were published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader

-“No Stone Left Unturned”