A guide to identifying and managing polycystic ovary syndrome

An Australian doctor is urging women to remain alert for symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal condition impacting one in 10 Australian women but goes undiagnosed in 70 per cent,  which can lead to serious health issues and infertility.

  • Implement a management plan with your doctor.

Dr Andrew Thompson says an important first step after a PCOS diagnosis is a visit to a doctor to implement a management plan. “This could include medical therapies to manage certain symptoms, such as the contraceptive pill to combat problems with menstruation, acne and excess hair. PCOS can also take a mental as much as a physical toll, and sometimes antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs may also be prescribed.”

  • Establish a healthy lifestyle.

Maintaining a healthy diet is important, particularly because PCOS increases one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Dr Thompson says, “Maintaining a balanced, nutrient-rich diet can help reduce the severity of symptoms. It is important to be particularly mindful of cholesterol levels and reduce processed foods, alcohol intake and avoid smoking, while increasing intake of foods rich in iron and protein.” Dr Thompson says a consistent sleep routine is also necessary. Those struggling to maintain a healthy diet or sleep well can seek advice from a sleep specialist or dietitian for additional support.

  • Consider natural therapies. 

Natural remedies can be impactful in not only managing symptoms but also to help improve general wellbeing. Herbal medicines, teas and supplements can reduce symptoms and address vitamin deficiencies. “Vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 supplements and magnesium can be helpful. Low magnesium levels can be linked to diabetes, along with chromium, a mineral that regulates insulin and blood sugar levels in the body.” However, Dr Thompson warns that natural therapies won’t work for everyone and advises PCOS sufferers to speak to a doctor first.

  • Maintain a regular exercise routine. 

Dr Thompson believes maintaining a consistent exercise routine and weight is important, even for those not experiencing weight gain as a PCOS symptom. “Regular physical activity can vastly improve our physical and mental health. Whether it’s losing weight or maintaining a consistent weight, exercise can help regulate menstrual cycles and even reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease associated with PCOS.”

  • Keep stress and anxiety at bay. 

Dr Thompson says it is important for women to combat stress and anxiety to maintain good mental health and warns that, as with many chronic illnesses, stress and anxiety can exacerbate symptoms and make them more difficult to manage. “While maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine can improve one’s emotional wellbeing, women can also introduce relaxing activities to their routine, such as mindfulness and meditation. Breathing exercises can also help keep anxiety symptoms at bay, such as panic attacks. Reducing caffeine intake is also important, as it can increase anxiety and interfere with sleep patterns.” Dr Thompson advises women to visit their doctor or a psychologist who can start talking therapies and also provide strategies to better cope with stress and anxiety.

Dr Andrew Thompson is a registered doctor at InstantScripts, a leading telehealth and online prescription service

For more information see Better Health Channel