Understanding Ovarian Cysts
The disease known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS for short, is characterized by a variety of symptoms. They can include irregular periods, vaginal bleeding, hair loss, irregular hair growth, acne, insulin resistance, weight gain in the upper body, sleep apnea, chronic pelvic pain, high blood pressure, and infertility. Another symptom can be the presence of cysts on the ovaries, hence the name Poly (many) cystic (cysts) ovarian (on the ovaries) syndrome.
A cyst refers to a sac that is filled with fluid. An ovarian cyst is one of these sacs that is found on the surface of the ovaries. Most of the time, these cysts are undiagnosed and will not have any symptoms. Most of the time, cysts on the ovaries are harmless. Sometimes, however, they can lead to serious problems such as PCOS. Somewhere between four and ten percent of women will develop PCOS. Many of the symptoms of PCOS are due to the activity of the ovarian cysts, and how they interact with the woman’s body.
Ovarian cysts can sometimes cause problems other than those associated with PCOS. They can cause a woman to feel discomfort while having intercourse. Sometimes, the ovarian cysts will bleed or rupture, which can cause a great deal of pain in the pelvis. In rare cases, ovarian cysts can turn cancerous.
Ovarian Cysts, especially in the case of a woman with PCOS, are often treated with birth control pills. The pill can help keep the menstrual cycle regular, and it can also reduce the levels of male hormones. Birth control pills may also help to clear acne associated with PCOS.
Birth control pills are not always a good option, however. Many women who have PCOS only discover that they have it because they are trying to conceive. In these cases, Clomid or other fertility medications may be used to help the woman’s ovulatory cycle stabilize. These medications may help control other side effects, as well.
Some health care providers will recommend diabetic medications, such as Metformin, to help the patient with PCOS. Also known as Glucophage, this medication impacts the way that insulin regulates glucose, and it also helps to cause a decrease in the production of testosterone. This can help ovulation to return, and can also help to slow down the irregular hair growth.
There are medications available that will also help with the extra male hormones present in the woman’s systems. Spironolactone is a medication that is typically used for blood pressure, but is also known to help reduce hair growth. Some research suggests that Propecia, a medication used by men to combat hair loss, can also help with unwanted hair.
There are surgical options for the woman with PCOS as well. Ovarian cysts can be removed through surgery if they are causing pain and/or other problems. Sometimes, a surgeon will want to remove the affected ovary.
Not all women with PCOS will actually have ovarian cysts.