Adolescent Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Adolescent Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

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Summary

Almost one out of every 10 teen girls and young women has polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This condition is a hormone imbalance that can cause irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, and acne.

Expanded overview

PCOS can be mild or severe. Treatment is important as teens and women are at higher risk for type 2 diabeteshigh blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.

Symptoms

A key sign of PCOS is irregular or missed periods because the effects of the condition on the ovaries can make a girl stop ovulating. But other symptoms can include:

  • Acne
  • Patches of dark, thickened skin on the neck, armpits or between the breasts
  • Periods that are very heavy or very light
  • Thinner hair on the head
  • Unwanted hair growth on the face, chest, back, hands, upper arms and legs, or around the nipples
  • Weight problems

Causes

The exact cause is not known, but there appears to be a genetic component as it tends to run in families. Although there is no cure for PCOS, effective treatment can control and eliminate many symptoms.

Tests and Diagnosis

If your doctor suspects your daughter has PCOS, your doctor will do a physical exam to check blood pressure, height and weight, will look at hair growth on the body and will check for patches of darkened skin. Your doctor will also ask you about your daughter’s health, her medicines and her menstrual cycle, and about whether there’s a family history of PCOS.

Additional tests may include:

  • A blood test to check hormone levels, blood glucose (sugar), or cholesterol
  • A pelvic exam
  • An ultrasound (imaging) test of the ovaries and uterus

Treatment

Although there is no cure for PCOS, treatments are effective and can include one or more of the following:

  • Lifestyle changes - Simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference, including eliminating sugary drinks and treats, getting regular exercise and quitting smoking
  • Counseling with a registered dietitian – Professional guidance will help you understand how to choose healthy foods and lose weight if you need to
  • Medication – Medication may be prescribed to regulate hormones, help the body use insulin better, and control acne
  • Hair removal treatment – Your doctor may give guidance on effective  treatment for unwanted body and facial hair, such as bleach, wax, medicines, shaving, electrolysis or laser treatment

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