Traditionally, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have been treated with therapies aimed at relieving specific PCOS symptoms or health risks. Newer treatments being investigated at the University of Chicago Medicine and elsewhere also aim to address what may be a root cause of PCOS: insulin resistance. Many of these new therapies are designed to lower insulin levels, thus reducing production of testosterone.

Physicians and scientists at UChicago Medicine are also actively pursuing additional solutions for treating PCOS through ongoing clinical trials. In addition, we maintain a current database of more than 700 patients with PCOS. This helps us to monitor progress and changes that may occur over many years of treatment and identify new trends in the disease.

PCOS Treatment Options

Our expert physicians may prescribe various therapies to target specific symptoms and health risks associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS):

Our expert physicians may prescribe various therapies to target specific symptoms and health risks associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS):

Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) contain a combination of hormones (estrogen and progesterone). Used properly, oral contraceptives can ensure that women with PCOS menstruate every four weeks. This, in turn, lowers the risk of endometrial cancer, which is higher in women with PCOS because they do not menstruate regularly and properly shed the endometrial lining.

Anti-Androgens

Anti-androgenic agents, such as spironolactone, block the effect of androgens (male hormones, including testosterone). In high doses, anti-androgens can reduce unwanted hair growth and acne.

Infertility Treatments

Many assisted-reproduction techniques are available for women who have difficulty conceiving because of PCOS. Working with UChicago Medicine experts in reproductive endocrinology, the Center for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome offers a full spectrum of standard and innovative fertility therapies — from oral and injectible medications that stimulate ovulation to advanced in vitro fertilization techniques, including use of donor eggs.

New evidence suggests that using medications that lower insulin levels in the blood may be effective in restoring menstruation and reducing some of the health risks associated with PCOS. Lowering insulin levels also helps to reduce the production of testosterone, thus diminishing many of the symptoms associated with excess testosterone: hair growth on the body, alopecia (scalp hair loss), acne and possibly cardiovascular risk.

Pioglitazone (Actos®) and Rosiglitazone (Avandia®) are insulin-sensitizing agents that improve glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. These drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of diabetes. Although they are not approved for treatment of PCOS, they have been shown to be effective for this purpose in many studies.

Metformin (Glucophage®) is an insulin-lowering drug. It is approved by the FDA as a treatment for diabetes, but is not yet FDA-approved for use in treating PCOS. In clinical trials, metformin has been shown to be very effective in restoring menstrual cycles in many, but not all, patients with PCOS.

Our clinical studies for PCOS are supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many of these trials are run through our Clinical Research Center (CRC) at the medical center.

Currently, we are conducting studies on the following:

  • Causes for the increased risk of diabetes in women with PCOS
  • The familial basis for PCOS and the related pattern of diabetes
  • Studies of the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and PCOS

For more information, or to determine if you are eligible for any of these studies, please contact us at 773-702-4295.

Many non-medical approaches can relieve or reduce specific symptoms. These include:

Weight Loss

Weight loss achieved through dietary changes and exercise can help women with PCOS in several ways. Like men and women without PCOS, losing weight reduces a person's risk of cardiovascular disease and non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes. Weight loss also helps to lower the level of insulin in the body which, in turn, reduces the ovaries' production of testosterone.

Losing weight can be quite challenging for women with PCOS. UChicago Medicine's Weight Management Program can help women with PCOS identify an approach that works best for them. Many women with PCOS follow a low-carbohydrate diet designed to lose or maintain their weight.

Electrolysis

Electrolysis can eliminate or decrease unwanted hair. During electrolysis, individual hair follicles are destroyed by using an electric current.

Laser Hair Removal

The removal of body hair through the use of laser treatment appears to be both effective and permanent.

 

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Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility

Our UChicago Medicine reproductive endocrinologists offer advanced care for female and male infertility.

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Endocrinology

Our team can treat a wide range of endocrine conditions, from common diseases like diabetes to rare genetic disorders.

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Pediatric Endocrinology

Pediatric endocrinologists at the UChicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital are experts in a wide range of hormonal problems in young people.