Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is an endocrine disorder, which can cause irregular menstruation and infertility. If the disorder is not treated it can cause heart problems and diabetes in the future.
The imbalance of hormones can be seen with visual changes of the body. One example of this would be unwanted dark facial and body hair, typically on the face, chest, and back. This characteristic is due to the increase in androgen production in PCOS women. As a practitioner, it is difficult to diagnose a patient just on this one measure. With laser hair removal readily available, sometimes looking at a patient doesn’t always fit this symptom.
Patients may also stop ovulating or not ovulating regularly. Due to the over-producing Luteinizing Hormone (LH), women will not have an egg released every cycle. Therefore, the egg stays in the overcrowded ovary. If we look at the ovary through an ultrasound, it would look like a string of pearls in the ovary. Since the ovary is very full, the follicles do not have room to grow and typically these follicles only reach 5-7mm (18-20mm is optimal).
Traditional Chinese Medicine can help in many ways with PCOS patients. One way is to help regulate cycles. Most PCOS patients may not have a regular 28-32 day cycle.
“In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, a group of women with PCOS were given acupuncture where the needles were stimulated both manually and with a weak electric current at a low frequency that was, to some extent, similar to muscular work. A second group was instructed to exercise at least three times a week, while a third group acted as controls. All were given information on the importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet.” (1)
“The study shows that both acupuncture and exercise reduce high levels of testosterone and lead to more regular menstruation,” says docent associate professor Elisabet Stener-Victorin, who is responsible for the study. “Of the two treatments, the acupuncture proved more effective.” (1)
In another study, acupuncture showed to have a role in PCOS by: increasing of blood flow to the ovaries, reducing of ovarian volume and the number of ovarian cysts, controlling hyperglycaemia through increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing blood glucose and insulin levels, reducing cortisol levels and assisting in weight loss and anorexia. (2)
Herbs such as Zao Jiao Ci, Ban Xia, and Fu Ling can be helpful in breaking down stagnate cysts in the ovaries. A licensed acupuncturist should prescribe any herbs. Dosage, preparation of herb, and drug/herb interactions are very important to note prior to taking herbs.
(2) Gynecol Endocrinol. 2010 Mar 16., PMID: 20230329 Current evidence of acupuncture on polycystic ovarian syndrome. Lim CE, Wong WS.