When you’re a teen with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), dealing with the symptoms of the condition can seem overwhelming. The good news is there are many ways that you can manage the effects of your condition, including lifestyle strategies, over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, and prescription medications.
Acne is actually very common in girls with PCOS due to high levels of androgens, such as testosterone.
Talk to your doctor about a skincare routine, and consider using traditional over-the-counter acne treatments to control breakouts, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
For persistent or severe acne, your doctor might prescribe medications like the birth control pill, Aldactone (spironolactone), or metformin to control your hormone levels and decrease acne.
Known as hirsutism, girls with PCOS often have abnormal hair growth in atypical places, such as the face, chest, back, neck, and toes.
You can use simple options like waxing, shaving, and hair removal creams. There are also longer-term—though more expensive—methods of hair removal, such as electrolysis and laser treatments. You will need a parent’s permission to have these professional cosmetic procedures.
Certain prescription medications, including birth control pill, Aldactone (spironolactone), Vaniqa (eflornithine hydrochloride), and Eulexin (flutamide), are sometimes prescribed to manage excess hair growth.
While some women have thicker-than-normal hair growth on their face or the rest of their bodies, others with PCOS may have problems with the hair on their head thinning. This is known as androgenic alopecia.
This effect of PCOS may be surprising if it strikes in your teen years. If this occurs, speak with your healthcare provider. You can try different hairstyles, dyes, or weaves to help make your hair look fuller.
Your doctor may recommend Rogaine (minoxidil), a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which can be helpful in treating hair loss.
Depression is a serious condition that is very common in both women and young girls with PCOS.
Depression isn’t just “being sad.” 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, healthcare provider, or other trusted adult. They can help you see a qualified mental health professional and get your depression treated.
Sometimes medication is necessary to treat depression, and talk therapy is often effective. In some cases, a combination of both is best.
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.
If you are overweight, lifestyle changes are your first option for weight loss. Make exercise a priority by scheduling 30 minutes of moderate activity (even walking counts) each day, four to five days every week. Cut back or eliminate simple sugars (found in candy, donuts, sugary cereal, and more) and eat lots of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.
Be mindful of how the food you eat is prepared. For example, if you’re at a restaurant, order something baked or broiled rather than fried. 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 can’t lose weight, you should see a licensed dietician to work on weight loss, which has been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms of PCOS.
Your doctor may consider prescribing medication or, in extreme cases, recommending 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 healthcare provider 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 the risk of developing endometrial cancer.
There are several ways that you can control your period and ensure that your uterus sheds its lining regularly, including losing weight (if you are overweight) and taking medication as prescribed by your docor.