Managing Your Symptoms As a Teen With PCOS

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When you’re a teen with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), dealing with the symptoms of the condition can seem overwhelming. Nevertheless, there are many ways that you can manage them, including lifestyle changes, over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, and prescription medications.

Acne

In addition to routine skincare and traditional acne treatments, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, there are other options that can be particularly helpful to girls with PCOS.

Acne is actually very common in girls with PCOS due to high levels of testosterone. Medications like the birth control pill, Aldactone (spironolactone), and metformin can help tame testosterone levels and decrease acne.

Hair Growth

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 OTC 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. (Note: You will likely need a parent's permission to receive these treatments.)

Certain prescription medications, including the birth control pills, Aldactone (spironolactone), Vaniqa (eflornithine hydrochloride), and Eulexin (flutamide), are sometimes prescribed to manage hair growth.

Hair Loss

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 occurs, speak with your doctor who may recommend a multivitamin, which can help increase the thickness, length, and overall health of existing hair.

Rogaine (minoxidil), an over-the-counter medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may also be helpful in treating your hair loss.

Depression

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, doctor, 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, while in other cases talk therapy is effective. In some cases, a combination of both is best.

Weight Gain

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 of moderate activity (even walking counts) each day, four to five days every week. Cut back or eliminate simple sugars 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 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.

Irregular Periods

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 of 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 birth control pills and losing weight.

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