It all started a year ago when she began to experience irregular menstrual cycles. Prior to that time, her cycles were always regular like clockwork. She was worried about this sudden change and also mentioned that she had difficulty losing weight and was often fatigued.
As her provider, I listened carefully to her symptoms and decided to run some lab work to help determine the root cause of her issues. The results of her lab work came back essentially normal, with some levels at the upper limits of normal, while others were what I consider suboptimal, meaning they’re normal but not quite functioning at their best. Additionally, based on her symptoms we went ahead and ordered a pelvic ultrasound which confirmed my suspicion. It revealed multiple follicles on her ovaries, which indicated polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects nearly 1 out of 10 women, and it can cause a variety of symptoms, including irregular menstrual cycles, difficulty losing weight, and fatigue. Traditionally, birth control is often prescribed to manage PCOS symptoms. However, I've found that alternative treatments can be just as effective without the risk of long-term birth control use.
After discussing with my patient, we started her on a treatment plan consisting of Spironolactone to manage her PCOS and regulate her hormones, low dose Armour thyroid medication to help with her fatigue and regulate her thyroid function, Chromium to improve insulin sensitivity, and diindolylmethane (DIM) to help balance estrogen levels in her body.
Over the next few months, we monitored her progress closely, and she began to feel better. Her menstrual cycles became more regular, and she started to lose weight more easily. Her fatigue also improved, and she had more energy throughout the day.
The main benefit of treating PCOS this focus on normalizing her hormone functioning using medications and over-the-counter agents that help the patients imbalanced levels return to normal levels. Additionally, micro-adjustments can be made to this plan to not only PCOS stability but symptomatic management as well. Another benefit of this alternative treatment plan is we don’t have to further impair her hormone function with birth control which is the traditional standard of PCOS therapy. Lastly, if my patient were to want to become pregnant in the future, we could adjust her treatment plan accordingly to support her fertility in real time rather than waiting for the effect of birth control to wear off.
In conclusion, it's important to pay attention to any changes in your body and to seek medical attention if you have any concerns. This 24-year-old woman's story is a great example of how a proper diagnosis and alternative treatment plan can make a world of difference in how you feel. If you're experiencing any similar symptoms, be sure to speak with your provider to see if PCOS could be the cause and to discuss all treatment options available to you.