Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a very common condition – impacting about 7% of women. This disorder has many symptoms that can seriously impact quality of life. Painful, highly irregular periods or complete cessation of menstruation, infertility, insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes), and weight gain are all associated with PCOS. In addition, there are several changes in physical appearance that often affect women who have this condition. PCOS leads to hormonal imbalances that can increase acne, cause the growth of excess body and facial hair, and lead to hair loss on the scalp. These are three conditions that may respond to dermatological treatments.
Excess Hair Growth
Women with PCOS have much more androgen in their system than is considered normal. This hormone tends to cause a masculine pattern of hair growth on the face and body – a condition referred to as hirsutism. The FDA has approved a drug called eflornithine for treatment of hirsutism. This cream is generally used by women to reduce growth of hair on the face. It isn’t actually a hair removal cream. Instead, it interferes with the function of hair follicles and reduces hair growth gradually. It may take several months for improvement to become apparent. At best, patients may see up to a 60% reduction in hair growth on the treated areas.
Women with severe hirsutism generally continue to pluck, shave, wax, or use depilating products to further reduce the appearance of excess hair growth. Other, more permanent dermatological treatments for hirsutism include laser hair removal and electrolysis.
Acne & Other Skin Problems
Pimples, oily skin, and dandruff may all affect women with PCOS. Some patient experience a reduction in skin symptoms when treated with estrogen based birth control, anti-androgen drugs such as Spironolactone, and insulin regulators such as Metmorfin. These medications help normalize the underlying hormonal imbalance of PCOS (although they do not cure the condition). Dermatologists may also recommend over the counter and prescription topical treatments for acne and dandruff. It may take some time and experimentation to find the right combination of therapies for reducing skin problems.
Head Hair Loss
With PCOS, loss of hair often occurs gradually all over the scalp rather than in a recognizable balding pattern. Women may not notice excessive loss of head hair until it is somewhat advanced. Unfortunately, most treatments are better at slowing the rate of loss than at restoring lost hair. Again, treating the underlying androgen excess is a typical treatment for managing hair loss. Rogaine may also be recommended for some patients. If bald patches do develop, women may seek hair restoration through micro grafting or other advanced hair transplantation techniques.