Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects 12-18% of women of reproductive age and up to 21% in some high-risk groups.1
A common side effect of PCOS is acne. If acne is the only problem then it’s best to consult a skin specialist, however if PCOS is suspected as a cause then it is best diagnosed and treated by a gynaecologist as it is primarily a hormone imbalance.
The reason PCOS patients often experience ongoing active acne, is due to the ovaries over-production of testosterone and other androgens. This excess of ‘male hormone’ in the blood causes the annoying skin condition.
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- An increase in facial or body hair (hirsutism)
- Loss of hair on your head
- Being overweight, experiencing a fast increase in weight or having difficulty losing weight
- Oily skin, acne
- Difficulty becoming pregnant (reduced fertility).
Gynaecologist Dr Abirami Thevakumar from Specialist Clinics of Australia says “the contraceptive pill is the most prescribed treatment for PCOS acne symptoms as the pill has an anti-testosterone effect and counteracts the excess hormone.” The popular brands are Yaz, Yasmine or Dianne. It also helps with many other symptoms like hair loss, hirsutism and irregular periods making it the treatment of choice for most people.
Dr Abirami explains, acne can also be treated topically with Retin A treatments but warns this is not safe for pregnant women.
In more severe cases anti- androgen medications such as cyproterone acetate, spironolactone, finasteride can be prescribed. Says Dr Abirami but it is not as common.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for PCOS. Medical treatments as mentioned above aim to manage and reduce the symptoms of PCOS. More importantly, medication alone has not proven to be any better than healthy lifestyle changes, such as having a healthy diet, a healthy weight and exercise.
Many women with PCOS successfully manage their symptoms and long-term health risks without medical assistance. They are able to do this by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and up-keeping a healthy lifestyle.2
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