If you’re reading this, I assume that you’re either: a) A woman, b) You’ve been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or c) You’re both. If you answered ‘a’ or ‘b’, then this article is for you. Everyone else – keep reading! If you answered ‘c’, then this article is for your mom.
PCOS is a condition that affects up to 10% of all women. If you’re reading this, there’s a 92% chance that you’re either suffering from it, or know someone who is. The syndrome is characterized by having more than 12 small cysts on the ovaries, which leads to irregular periods and excessive hair growth. In the most severe cases, it can cause diabetes and heart disease. Not such a pretty picture, right?
If you’re nodding your head in agreement, then it’s time to find the right PCOS medication to help you out. It can be quite the task to find a drug that treats your symptoms but doesn’t cause too many unwanted side effects. To help you make the right choice, I’ve put together a list of everything you should know about five of the most common medications used to treat PCOS. Take a look, and you’ll know which one is right for you.
Metformin is a medication that’s been around since the 1950s and is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ for treating PCOS. The most common side effect is GI distress (especially if you’ve previously had problems with your digestive tract), so it’s always a good idea to discuss with your doctor what supplements or changes you can make to lessen these effects. Another side effect, albeit a very rare one, is lactic acidosis. This is a condition where too much lactate builds up in the body, usually due to bacterial overgrowth in the gut (which can lead to sepsis or even death).
Although metformin is highly effective at treating PCOS, it is not completely without issues. Several large studies have shown that it can increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 20%. For this reason, it is not recommended for people with pre-existing diabetes. Because of its side effects, many physicians will only prescribe it for the most severe cases of PCOS. If you’re looking for a medication that treats your PCOS, but don’t want to worry about any long-term side effects, then metformin may be the right choice for you.
Clomiphene is a medication that was originally developed to treat infertility. It was first introduced to the market in the 1950s and is still one of the most commonly prescribed medications for PCOS. The most common side effects are headaches, nausea, and breast tenderness. While it’s highly effective at stimulating ovulation in women with PCOS, it can cause severe birth defects if taken during the first trimester of pregnancy. Because of its teratogenic effects (which means it can cause birth defects), it is not recommended for use during pregnancy. About 1 in 100 people who take clomiphene will develop a blood clot on the surface of the brain (called a ‘deep vein thrombosis’ or ‘DVT’) which can lead to stroke or even death.
Due to its serious side effects, pregnancy restrictions, and relatively low effectiveness, clomiphene is generally only prescribed for women with severe PCOS who are infertile and haven’t responded well to other treatments. If you’re looking for a medication that can potentially help you become pregnant, then clomiphene is a great choice. Just keep in mind its serious side effects if you choose this route. If you do decide to try it, at least wait until you’re past the first trimester to avoid the risk of birth defects.
Raloxifene is a medication that was originally developed to help prevent osteoporosis in women. Since then, it has been found to be an effective treatment for PCOS. The most common side effects of raloxifene are jaw discomfort and leg cramps. However, it has been shown to be quite safe when used at therapeutic dosages (which is generally considered to be between 60 and 120 mg daily). Like clomiphene, raloxifene can cause severe birth defects if taken during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Unlike the other medications on this list, raloxifene is not recommended for people with Type 2 diabetes or heart disease. However, it can still be quite effective at lowering cholesterol and triglycerides, which are both important in preventing heart disease. Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, raloxifene may also play a role in preventing some types of cancer.
If you’re looking for a medication that can help you lose weight while still treating your PCOS symptoms, then raloxifene is a great choice. It can also help prevent other diseases that are commonly associated with overweight and obesity, like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, be sure to discuss this option with your doctor to make sure it’s right for you.
Letrozole is a medication that blocks the effects of the female hormone, estrogen. It’s primarily used to treat breast cancer, however, it has been found to be quite effective at treating PCOS. The most common side effects of letrozole are nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Just like with some of the other medications on this list, letrozole can cause severe birth defects if taken during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Letrozole is not recommended for people with Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, but it can still be quite effective at reducing cholesterol and triglycerides, which increase your risk of heart disease. It also has anti-tumor effects, which inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Due to its effects on cholesterol and triglycerides, letrozole may also play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In many cases, Alzheimer’s is caused by the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain which cause vascular damage and dementia. In some instances, Alzheimer’s is caused by the degradation of the neurons which lead to brain shrinkage and dementia. If you’re looking for a medication that can help you lose weight while treating your PCOS, then letrozole may be the right choice for you.
Like the other medications on this list, letrozole is not recommended for people with pre-existing heart disease, diabetes, or breast cancer. However, it is generally well tolerated by those who do not have these conditions, and it has been shown to be effective at treating infertility and PCOS in those who do.
Tamsulosin is a medication that’s been around for over 40 years and is used to treat prostate enlargement and urinary incontinence in men. Like many other medications, it has been found to be quite effective at treating PCOS. The most common side effects are nausea, diarrhea, and orthostatic hypotension (extreme dizziness when getting up from a sitting or lying position).
Due to its side effects, most physicians will only prescribe tamsulosin for people with severe PCOS who are also experiencing erectile dysfunction. If you’re looking for a medication that can help you lose weight and get rid of those extra pounds, then tamsulosin may be the right choice for you.
Although it’s not recommended for people with Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, tamsulosin has been shown to increase your risk of these conditions. It is, however, used to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), in which there is a build-up of fluid in the prostate gland. The fluid in the prostate gland accumulates because of insufficient blood flow to the gland as a result of vascular disease or malfunction in the body. Due to its side effects, tamsulosin is generally not recommended for women or children (under 12 years of age). However, if you do have a child who is old enough to understand the importance of taking their supplements, then it’s not such a bad idea to let them try this medication during their teen years. Let them learn to be responsible for their health while still being able to enjoy their school life. In these instances, it’s best to monitor your child closely for signs of BPH. If they do develop the disease, then it’s time for them to transition to a different medication or combination of medications.