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  • Ovarian Issues (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Premature Ovarian Failure)

    PCOS-Causes and TreatmentOvarian issues are a leading cause of female infertility.

    Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

    Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), also known as Stein Leventhal Syndrome, PCOD (polycystic ovary disease), Syndrome O and Syndrome X, is a hormonal disease affecting between 5-10% of women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS produce greater than normal amounts of androgens, a male hormone normally produced in small amounts in a woman’s body. The hormone insulin is also linked to PCOS.

    + Causes of PCOS
    The cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is unknown, but genetics likely plays a role.

    + Symptoms of PCOS

    • Infertility due to lack of ovulation
    • Infrequent, absent, and/or irregular menstrual periods
    • Hirsutism (HER-suh-tiz-um): Increased hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes
    • Cysts on the ovaries
    • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
    • Weight gain or obesity, usually with extra weight around the waist
    • Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
    • Patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs that are thick and dark brown or black
    • Skin tags: excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
    • Pelvic pain
    • Anxiety or depression
    • Sleep apnea: breathing stops for short periods of time while asleep

    + Treatment of PCOS
    Treatment of PCOS depends on the symptoms, pregnancy plans, and whether heart disease and diabetes are a concern. Women should seek diagnosis and treatment from a Reproductive Endocrinologist.

    + Alternative Treatments for PCOS
    Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, director of education for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, suggests the following alternative/complementary treatments for PCOS:

    • Exercise is an absolute must.
    • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
    • Avoid conventionally raised beef and dairy products, which may contain residues of estrogenic hormones used as growth promoters.
    • Increase your intake of whole soy foods, including tofu, tempeh, soymilk, and edamame. The isoflavones in soy may help with the hormonal imbalances.
    • A study in Fertility and Sterility showed that one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon powder reduced insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
    • There may be additional herbs and acupuncture that can help, but you would need to see a trained practitioner for specific advice.

    + Other Health Concerns for Women with PCOS

    • More than 50 percent of women with PCOS will have diabetes or pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance) before the age of 40.
    • The risk of a heart attack is 4 to 7 times higher in women with PCOS than women of the same age without PCOS.
    • Women with PCOS have a greater risk of having high blood pressure.
    • Women with PCOS often have high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
    • Sleep apnea, when breathing stops for short periods of time during sleep, is common.
    • Women with PCOS are at an increased risk for endometrial cancer.

    Premature Ovarian Failure

    Premature ovarian failure, also known as primary ovarian insufficiency and premature menopause, is defined as the loss of normal ovarian function before age 40. Technically, premature menopause is when menstruation stops completely, but these terms are often used interchangeably.

    + Symptoms of Premature Ovarian Failure or Premature Menopause
    Signs and symptoms of premature ovarian failure are similar to those of menopause and result from lower levels of estrogen. You should see a doctor if you have any of the following:

    • Irregular or skipped periods
    • Hot flashes/Night sweats
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Irritability or difficulty concentrating
    • Reduced sexual desire

    Creating a Family has many resources for women with PCOS and other ovarian issues. Some we think you will find particularly helpful are:

    Many more Creating a Family radio interviews with experts, videos, blogs, fact sheets, and Q and A’s with Experts on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Premature Menopause can be found at the icons below.

    Sources: Creating a Family Radio Shows listed below, www.womenshealth.gov; www.drweil.com; www.mayoclinic.org

    Additional Resources

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    Creating a Family Radio Shows on Ovarian Issues

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    Creating a Family Blogs on Ovarian Issues

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    Creating a Family Factsheets, Tips on Ovarian Issues

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    Creating a Family Videos on Ovarian Issues

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    Q and A's with Experts on Ovarian Issues

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