Local News

PCOS Common Condition In Women Of Childbearing Age

Posted November 14, 2003 12:32 p.m. EST

— Problems with facial hair or infertility are medical conditions that are usually treated individually, but they could all be symptoms of the same disorder.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is something many women have never heard of, but it is one of the most common problems in women of childbearing age.

Its cause is not known, but doctors are finding better ways to treat it.

"This is the best I've felt in my entire life," exclaimed Colette Wallace.

For Wallace, 2003 will go down as a year to remember. For years, she lived with irregular periods, skin problems, excessive hair growth and obesity.

"That's tough for a woman," she said.

Wallace did not know what it was until she saw a doctor on TV talking about PCOS.

"I said, 'That sounds just like me,'" she said.

PCOS is common, affecting one in 10 women of childbearing age.

Symptoms include irregular periods, facial hair, acne, elevated male hormone levels, obesity and high blood pressure. Many women also have metabolic problems. Up to 40 percent have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

"That's much higher than in the general population, even among very overweight people," said Dr. Ann Brown, a Duke researcher.

Medications help manage the symptoms. Duke researchers are also studying to see if lifestyle changes work. Brown leads a study on the benefits of moderate exercise, such as walking.

"One of the patients we have now is walking almost an hour four to five days a week," Brown said.

The plan is working for Wallace. She takes diabetes medicine, walks and follows a low-carb diet.

Wallace lost 50 pounds, and with it, many of her symptoms. She is glad she finally found help, and hopes it does not take other women as long.

"For me, it was like a puzzle and it took a little while longer to figure out how the pieces fit," Wallace said.

PCOS is a leading cause of infertility. Brown said with proper treatment, several of her patients have gone on to become mothers.

For more information on exercise and PCOS call (919) 684-4139.