When you’re a teen with PCOS, dealing with the symptoms of the condition can seem overwhelming. But there are a lot of ways that you can manage them -- some treatments are available over the counter and others may require a prescription. Check out this list of common PCOS symptoms and ways that you can treat them.
Acne is actually very common in girls with PCOS due to high levels of testosterone. Numerous options are available to treat and manage acne. In addition to routine skin care and traditional acne treatments, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, there are options specific to girls with PCOS, which address the high testosterone. Medications like the birth control pill, spironolactone, and metformin are used most often to treat PCOS-related acne. Speak to your doctor for recommendations.
Known as hirsutism, girls with PCOS often have abnormal hair growth in atypical places, like their face, chest, back, neck and toes. You can use over-the-counter options like waxing, shaving, and hair removal creams. There are also longer-term and more expensive methods of hair removal, like electrolysis and laser hair removal. You will likely need a parent's permission to receive these treatments. Certain medications, like the birth control pill, spironolactone, Vaniqa, and flutamide, are sometimes prescribed to manage hair growth. Speak with your doctor about these options, some of which may not be appropriate until you get older.
Even though some women have thicker than normal hair growth on their face or the rest of their bodies, many teens with PCOS have problems with the hair on their head thinning, known as androgenic alopecia. A multivitamin can help some women thicken their hair and increase the health of their existing hair. Currently, there is only one FDA-approved medication on the market to treat hair loss, known as Rogaine. If over-the-counter options don’t work, there are prescription medications that are sometimes used, including the birth control pill, spironolactone, finasteride, and flutamide. Check with your doctor if you find hair loss to be a problem.
Depression is a serious condition that is very common in both women and young girls with PCOS and shouldn’t be ignored. Depression isn’t just "being sad" and often requires medical treatment to beat it. Sometimes medication is necessary; other times, talk therapy is effective. If you are experiencing symptoms like feelings of hopelessness, extreme sadness, difficulty eating or sleeping, eating or sleeping too much, or loss of interest in your friends or hobbies, please don’t hesitate to talk to your parents, doctor, or other trusted adult. They can help you see a qualified mental health professional and get your depression treated.
The relationship between PCOS and weight gain is a complicated one. Experts still are not certain whether PCOS makes it easier for a girl to put on weight, or if the extra weight causes a girl to develop PCOS. Lifestyle changes are your first option for weight loss. Make exercise a priority by scheduling 30 minutes to walk each day for 4 to 5 days every week. Cut back or eliminate simple sugars and eat lots of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Be mindful of how you are preparing your food -– bake or broil instead of frying, and use oil or butter sparingly, for example. Try having a salad or a big glass of water 15 minutes before each meal –- it may help fill you up so you eat less.
If you have made these changes and have been unsuccessful, you may consider taking medication or, in extreme cases, having gastric bypass surgery as an aid to your weight loss plan. These are very serious steps to take, so make sure to have a long discussion with both your doctor and your parents about the benefits and risks. Of course, you’ll need your parents' permission before having this type of treatment.
Having irregular or even absent periods is very common in teens with PCOS. Changes in hormone levels alter your normal menstrual cycle and keep the lining of the uterus from building up. If that build-up doesn’t happen, you don’t get a period. When you don't have a regular period, it can increase your risk for developing endometrial cancer. There are some very simple ways that you can control your period and ensure that your uterus sheds its lining regularly, including taking the birth control pill and losing weight.