Weight loss and dietary management for PCOS
I enjoyed Dr. Barbieri’s editorial on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but I feel that first-line management for PCOS should be weight loss and diet modifications that include instructions on decreasing carbohydrates and insulin spikes. A 5% to 10% weight loss should produce a return of cycles. Of course, metformin and spironolactone have a place for added treatment/prevention of acne and diabetes.
Luis Linan, MD
El Paso, Texas
Metformin and progesterone for PCOS-related infertility
I have been using Beyaz and Yaz for several years in my PCOS patients for the lower androgenic activity of the drospirenone based on the same assumption and its similarity to spironolactone. I have gotten great results with metformin 1,500 mg daily and, for those who desire fertility, cycling once a month for 10 days with progesterone. My own daughter was able to conceive in just 3 months of therapy. PCOS is extremely common in our region, probably due to the high obesity rate. I saw many more cases here than I ever thought I would when I was training.
Lisa Gowan, CNM, WHNP-BC
Check insulin levels in PCOS patients before giving metformin?
Thank you for the very nice article regarding PCOS treatment. Does Dr. Barbieri routinely check insulin levels on patients before treating with metformin and does he require abnormal insulin levels to be present before initiating treatment? The article suggested that using the listed risk factors is sufficient. Additionally, does he perform glucose-insulin testing? If so, what is the protocol used? I have used fasting levels and 2-hour post 75-g glucose-drink testing as well. What is the best approach?
Scott A. Beckman, MD
Contraception and spironolactone
As usual, Dr. Barbieri has provided a thorough, concise, and practical overview on the medical management of PCOS. I would add just one small point. Another reason for using an oral estrogen-progestin pill concomitantly with spironolactone is due to the potential teratogenicity of this medication.
Bryan R. Hecht, MD
Low-carb diet helps mitigate metformin side effects
Thank you for the article on PCOS. I have been treating PCOS this way for about 15 years and have been following lipids and seen dramatic improvements with that as well. I wish we as a medical community would focus on the low carbohydrate diet to help avert metformin side effects as well as treat the metabolic issues. You can get many people back on metformin by just adjusting their diet. I hope you can spread this word.
Steven Foley, MD
Appreciates Dr. Barbieri’s editorials
G’Day from Australia. I am a big fan of your editorials and opinions and enjoy reading OBG Management. Please keep it up.
Kanapathippillai Sivanesan, MD
Dr. Barbieri responds
I thank Dr. Linan, Dr. Foley, and Ms. Gowan for sharing their important insights with our readers. I agree with Dr. Linan that I should have highlighted the important guidance that women with PCOS and a body mass index (BMI) above the normal range should be encouraged to reduce their weight by 5% to 10% with diet and exercise. Dr. Foley offers a clinical pearl that a low carbohydrate diet will reduce the gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur with metformin therapy. Ms. Gowan notes that the combination of metformin plus cyclic progesterone may help to initiate more frequent ovulatory cycles in women with PCOS, thereby improving fertility. Dr. Hecht reminds us that spironolactone is a teratogen and using effective contraception can help reduce the risk of exposing a pregnancy to the medication.
Dr. Beckman raises the important clinical issue of whether it is helpful to measure insulin concentration. Measuring insulin and glucose is especially helpful in understanding the causes of hypoglycemia. An elevated insulin level at the time of an abnormally low glucose level is very worrisome. However, for women with PCOS, in whom insulin resistance is common, measuring insulin is of minimal clinical value. A normal or elevated insulin level is consistent with the diagnosis of PCOS. Assessing BMI, waist circumference, HDL-cholesterol, fasting triglyceride level, and blood pressure— components of the metabolic syndrome—are much more useful clinically. The dermatologic skin lesion acanthosis nigricans is also a sign consistent with insulin resistance. I do not measure insulin levels in my patients with PCOS. Metformin is a useful agent in the treatment of PCOS whether or not insulin resistance is present. Metformin may have direct actions on the ovary to reduce androgen production, in addition to its beneficial effects in the liver.
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