PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) And Primary Amenorrhea
Primary Amenorrhea refers to a condition in which a woman has does not begin to have menstrual periods by the age of 16. A variety of things can cause primary amenorrhea, including poor development of the uterus or ovaries, chromosomal abnormalities, problems with the hypothalamus, or pituitary disease. Primary Amenorrhea can also be, and often is, caused by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS for short. Primary amenorrhea is not a disease in and of itself, but is rather a symptom of another problem.
PCOS is one of the leading causes of primary amenorrhea. It is also a common cause of secondary amenorrhea, which refers to the absense of a period for an extended period of several months. In a woman with PCOS, amenorrhea is caused by the high levels of hormones, such as estrogen and androgens or male hormones. These high and sustained levels of hormones cause there to be a lessening of the hormones produced by the pituitary gland that cause ovulation and menstruation.
In addition to causing problems with ovulation and menstruation, PCOS can cause a variety of other symtoms. Some of the symptoms of PCOS 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. For women who are trying to get pregnant, this can be very disheartening; even if they do manage to conceive, women with PCOS are at an increased risk for miscarriages.
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.
Another possible treatment for PCOS is 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. 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. A process known as “ovarian drilling” is sometimes used to help start ovulation. This laparoscopic procedure is fairly non-invasive, but does carry certain risks and is not a permanent solution.