During a normal menstrual period, a number of follicles grow in the ovaries which hold the eggs. At ovulation, an egg is released from one of the follicles, the rest of the follicles break down, but this isn’t the case with the women living with PCOS. What is PCOS and what are the treatment options available?
Metformin and PCOS
PCOS and Metformin are closely associated. If you have recently been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, you are not alone. The condition affects 5% to 15% of women of reproductive age. The condition occurs when the ovaries release elevated levels of androgens (male hormones). Ovulation doesn’t occur and follicles don’t break down, instead, they are filled with fluid which turns into cysts. The ovaries may swell in size and may become two to five times bigger than normal. Conception is a challenge due to overproduction of androgens.
What causes PCOS is a mystery; however, many physicians associate it with hormonal imbalances, high levels of androgens as well as genetics. A woman is at risk of developing the disorder if a mother or a sister has it. A woman with polycystic ovary syndrome has excess insulin, which may lead to an increase of the male hormones. Symptoms of PCOS vary from one patient to another; the symptoms will be experienced once the menses set in. Below are some of the symptoms one may encounter:
- Excess hair growth on the face, chest, stomach, thumbs and toes
- Decrease in breast size
- Deeper voice
- Hair loss
- Irregular or no periods
- Weight gain
- Pelvic pain
Although not signs of the disorder, an individual may experience or is at risk of the following:
- Gestational diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight especially around the tummy
It’s important to visit a healthcare facility once an individual encounters signs of polycystic ovary syndrome and the physician may prescribe Metformin to treat PCOS.
Metformin for PCOS isn’t a cure for the ailment. So, what does this medication do for polycystic ovary syndrome? Before tackling the question, let’s learn more about the medication. It’s an oral prescription drug used mainly to treat type II diabetes. It belongs to a category of medications known as biguanides. It also has some off-label uses which haven’t been approved by the FDA for example to treat infertility, aid in weight loss, treat or manage polycystic ovary syndrome and it has gained popularity as an anti-aging drug. It’s a highly effective medication and has helped many people (both men and women) deal with the ailments the medication is prescribed for. What is important is to take the drug as instructed; don’t take an overdose nor an under dose.
How Does The Drug Work For PCOS?
Let’s now focus in the query, how does the drug help with polycystic ovary syndrome? The drug works in a number of ways for a woman with the condition. The therapy controls the symptoms and manages the disorder to hinder complications. As earlier mentioned, polycystic ovary syndrome is a cause of anovulation and infertility; a patient doesn’t ovulate regularly, thus irregular periods. It’s obvious without ovulation a woman can’t conceive. Thus, treating polycystic ovary syndrome with Metformin regulates the menstrual cycle and this is an advantage if you are trying to conceive. The medicine induces ovulation and a pregnancy may occur. Hormonal imbalance is thought to be one cause of polycystic ovary syndrome. Hormones are substances produced by the glands and absorbed into the bloodstream. They are ferried to different body tissues and aid in body functions. There are numerous types of hormones; the following are hormones, mainly affected by polycystic ovary syndrome:
- Luteinizing hormone
The majority of the women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are insulin resistant. Insulin hormone is produced by the beta cells situated in the pancreas. Carbohydrates consumed are broken down into simple sugars or glucose during digestion. Every cell in the body requires sugar to function and insulin acts as key for glucose to enter the cells and be used for energy. If there isn’t adequate insulin, or the body can’t utilize it properly, sugar builds in the bloodstream. If one is insulin resistant, it means the cells no longer use insulin effectively; the cells experience difficulties in absorbing glucose, which builds in the bloodstream and one needs high levels of insulin to regulate the blood sugar levels; thus taking this medicine for polycystic ovary syndrome aids in balancing the levels of insulin in the body. Once the insulin and the sugar levels are back to normal, androgens which are male hormones goes back to normal and this enables the female’s body or hormones to go back to normal as well. A woman ovulates and menstruates regularly as expected. The drug may take a couple of weeks for the wanted effects to be encountered, although this will vary from one woman to another.
Bear in mind women with polycystic ovary syndrome may be pre-diabetes. What is pre-diabetes? It’s when the blood glucose levels are elevated, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. A woman can be pre-diabetes for many years even without her realizing it; since it does not trigger noticeable signs in the early phases. You can even live with it for many years unless it becomes difficult to conceive. Hence, a woman taking Metformin with PCOS will be prevented from getting type II diabetes. The medication treats pre-diabetes in the following ways:
- It prompts the liver to release less glucose
- It aids the stomach to absorb less glucose from food eaten
- It makes insulin hormone produced by the body to be more efficient
A high percentage of women living with polycystic ovary syndrome are obese or have excessive weight. Being obese is a factor of insulin resistance, type II diabetes, blood pressure, infertility and other health complications. Using Metformin in polycystic ovary syndrome women aids in loss of weight. Through the help of the medication, an individual is able to lose at least two pounds per week. If pregnancy is eventually achieved, the fertility expert may recommend a patient to continue with the medication if one is at risk of gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes only experienced during pregnancy and clears after giving birth).
As earlier mentioned, the drug is a prescription drug, so the medical practitioner will guide you on how to take this medication for polycystic ovary syndrome. But in many cases, it is taken two to three times daily with meals, preferably during breakfast and dinner. The doctor may start you on a low medication dosage for PCOS and slowly adjusts the medication if need be. Please take note that the medicine is never chewed or crushed, instead, it’s swallowed whole.
What happens if one doesn’t become pregnant even after taking the maximum Metformin dose for polycystic ovary syndrome? Since women react differently to the drug, others may begin ovulating, yet unable to become pregnant, while others may not respond to the medication at all. The health practitioner may put you in combination therapy. For example, Metformin and Clomid may be used to try and induce ovulation. If the combination isn’t successful, the next option is to try Letrozole to trigger ovulation, follicle stimulating injections or in vitro fertilization for PCOS.
Women who have been on Metformin may respond well when subjected to in vitro fertilization. Dealing with infertility is an expensive affair and calls for financial commitment, so, if you have PCOS and intends to become pregnant, it’s advisable to save in advance and be prepared financially. While on the medication, you can be faced with the unwanted effects of Metformin.
All drugs available for use have possible negative effects and Metformin is not exceptional. They may be serious or mild. The drug is taken in a dose that a woman can tolerate because of the undesired effects, although the most effective dosage of Metformin for polycystic ovary syndrome is 500 mg taken three times daily. The most common unfavorable effects experienced by almost every woman on the medication for polycystic ovary syndrome are:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Loss of appetite
- Metallic taste in the mouth
The usual medication side effects will clear without any medical intervention, if they are irritating, the doctor may lower the dose of Metformin or give remedies on how to manage the negative effects.
Metformin used for polycystic ovary syndrome has a number of benefits as explained in the article, for example:
- Regulating ovulation and monthly periods
- Aiding in weight loss
- Preventing type II diabetes and pre-diabetes
- Dealing with insulin resistance
However, for a woman to enjoy the listed benefits, healthy lifestyle is vital, in terms of physical activity, diet and quitting smoking as well as alcohol intake. As one exercise, whether insulin resistance or not, the muscles use blood glucose. Diet can aid in weight loss and improve fertility, making it easier to conceive. Diet and physical activity help the drug to yield the expected outcome. Never stop taking the drug unless the doctor gives you a go ahead to avoid side effects of stopping Metformin for PCOS.