A polycystic problem
The ovaries contain several follicles, which make up the ovarian reserve. Each month, a follicle bursts open, releasing a mature egg into the fallopian tubes to anticipate fertilization from sperm. Sometimes, the follicle can fail to release an egg or close again after doing so. Both circumstances lead to the formation of a fluid-filled cyst. With PCOS, multiple cysts can form simultaneously, swelling the ovaries while affecting normal function. Some women are unaware of PCOS, but the condition can lead to unpleasant, painful, or sometimes life-threatening symptoms for many.
Irregular periods and infertility
Symptoms of PCOS can affect the body in multiple ways. The cysts can cause mild to severe abdominal and pelvic pain, chronic fatigue, and irregular periods. Since the ovaries also produce and release several hormones, PCOS affects this function. Some women produce more androgens, leading to hirsutism, insulin resistance, hormonal acne, weight fluctuations, and much more. The symptoms of PCOS can also lead to difficulty getting pregnant.
Getting the right diagnosis
Polycystic ovarian syndrome can sometimes go unchecked or may be misdiagnosed. The longer a woman goes without checking for PCOS, the more challenging pregnancy becomes. The hormonal issues caused by PCOS can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive cancers. The condition is also a trigger for anxiety and depression. In some cases, severe pelvic pain indicates a rupture that needs immediate medical attention. Women should request a check for PCOS, even if the symptoms are mild.
Treating PCOS with medication
After a diagnosis, an OB/GYN may prescribe multiple medications to address the symptoms. For instance, an oral contraceptive can help regulate hormones. Although the approach seems counterintuitive, this strategy may improve fertility long-term while reducing symptoms like hirsutism. When the patient stops the contraceptive to get pregnant, the doctor may prescribe an ovulatory stimulant, which can help with fertility. An insulin-sensitizing agent is another common drug that helps treat PCOS symptoms and insulin resistance.
How can the pharmacist help?
Chances are that women will need to visit a pharmacist to fill PCOS prescriptions. Pharmacists can provide valuable insight into how to use the prescription safely and consistently. The pharmacist can also ask about other medications, supplements, or foods that could affect the PCOS medication. Upon consulting the doctor, the pharmacist can change the prescription or recommend a more effective brand or form. In some cases, if the medication is unavailable in a particular form, the pharmacist can perform compounding. A compounding pharmacist formulates a drug to suit the patient’s needs and preferences, increasing the chances of successful PCOS management.
Get PCOS under control
There is no real cure for PCOS, but treatments can help. Prescription medications, along with a healthy diet and exercise, have been shown to decrease symptoms and improve fertility. A pharmacist ensures that the patient stays on track. Simple recommendations from the medical professional make adherence as easy as possible. These treatments may be enough to improve the patient’s quality of life or help with pregnancy. If pregnancy is still a challenge, there are assisted reproductive technologies (ART) that can help. Otherwise, the medical team can help get things under control.