Up to 5 million American women have polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. At her practice in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Alexis Michopoulos, DO, specializes in diagnosing and treating PCOS using an integrative and holistic approach. A combination of healthy lifestyle changes, routine checkups, supplemnts and medication can relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life. Call the office today to request treatment for PCOS or book an appointment online.
PCOS is a common condition that creates a hormonal imbalance when your ovaries create excess hormones. It is thought that up to 20% of women have PCOS. It can cause irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, acne, infertility and difficulty losing weight. Patients with PCOS are at higher risk for certain health conditions, like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
PCOS affects everyone differently, but there are several signs and symptoms including:
Small follicle cysts (fluid-filled sacs) may be visible on your ovaries on ultrasound due to lack of ovulation (relase of the egg in the follicle). However, despite the name "polycystic," you don’t need to have visible cysts on your ovaries to have PCOS. The ovarian cysts are not dangerous or painful.
Women with PCOS often have irregular periods. For example, your period might last for several weeks. Or, you might only get a period three or four times a year.
Abnormal hair growth
You may grow excess facial hair or experience heavy hair growth on your shoulders, back, chest and abdomen. This affects up to 70% of patients with PCOS.
PCOS can cause acne especially on your back, shoulders chest and face (jawline). This acne may continue past your teenage years and may be difficult to treat. Sometimes it will start in your late 20's and 30's, or even when your menopausal transition begins.
Difficulty with weight gain and inability to lose weight
Between 40% and 80% of people with PCOS struggle with obesity and have trouble maintaining a weight that’s healthy for them. This is due to insulin resistance making it nearly impossible to lose weight with diet and exercise alone.
Skin tags are little flaps of extra skin. They’re often found in your armpits or on your neck. These are caused by high levels of the hormone insuin.
People with PCOS may have hair loss in patches on their head or start to bald.
PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women. This is due to not ovulating regularly or frequently and can result in not being able to conceive.
Red bumps on skin
This is also known as keratosis pilaris. This is a finding often associated with insulin reisistance and PCOS.
This is one of the main underlying issues with PCOS. The increase in insulin levels causes your ovaries to make and release male hormones like testosterone. Insulin helps your body process glucose as well as store it as energy. Insulin resistance means your body doesn’t respoind to insulin correctly, leading to high levels of insulin. Insulin is a building hormone and these high levels lead to an increase in adipose (fat) tissue caussing weight gain and the insulin makes it very difficult to lose this adipose tissue. Eventually this whol process will result in high glucose levels in your blood making patients prediabetic or diabetic. This puts them at high risk for strokes and heart attacks as well as conditions like fatty liver which is the fastest growing reason for the need of a liver transplant. An elevated insulin level, even if your blood glucose is normal, can indicate insulin resistance.
PCOS is a clinical diagnosis so a detailed history is important. Dr. Michopoulos reviews your medical records, asks about your symptoms, and completes a physical exam. She may also recommend several tests, including:
During a pelvic exam, your can be evaluated for abnormalities, such as masses, growths, or other changes.
Bloodwork provides a minimally invasive way to analyze your hormone, cholesterol, triglyceride and blood sugar levels. Often, abnormalities in these areas indicate PCOS.
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to capture real-time images of your ovaries and the lining of your uterus. This is not often used as you do not need to have cysts on your ovaries to have PCOS.
Dr. Michopoulos treats PCOS with a combination of healthy lifestyle changes, supplements and prescription medication when indicated. She tailors treatment based on each patient’s health goals and personal preferences. The goal is to manage the symptoms affecting your quality of life.
Call the practice of Alexis Michopoulos, DO, today to receive treatment for PCOS, or make your appointment online.