Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age in the United States. The disorder is characterized by menstrual irregularity, lack of ovulation, infertility, acne, excessive and abnormal hair growth on the face and body, and elevated androgen levels.
Elevated androgen levels caused by polycystic ovary syndrome stimulate excessive hair growth on women’s face, chest, and back, while triggering hair loss on women’s head. While there is no cure for PCOS-related hair loss, the condition can be managed and alleviated with medication and lifestyle changes.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Every month, your brain signals the follicles in your ovaries to mature and release an egg so it can get fertilized by a sperm. The most mature of these eggs then burst out of their follicles and travel to the fallopian tubes to await fertilization by a sperm.
All the other follicles that did not release an egg are destroyed and eliminated from your reproductive system. This process is repeated every month for women of reproductive age until they reach menopause.
In women with polycystic ovary syndrome, abnormal sex hormone levels in the body disrupt the egg maturation signaling from the brain to the ovaries. As a result, the follicles do not mature to release their eggs, which results in a lack of ovulation.
Your body destroys and eliminates mature follicles after ovulation. In women with PCOS, follicles accumulate in the ovaries due to involution. The accumulated follicles in the ovaries look like cysts in medical imaging, contributing to the term polycystic ovary syndrome.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal disorder, afflicting up to 10% of women aged 18 – 44 years old in the United States. Polycystic ovary syndrome results from an abnormal production of multiple sex hormones, leading to the disruption of many physiological systems in your body.
Most women with polycystic ovary syndrome produce an excess of male sex hormones called androgens, leading to a condition known as hyperandrogenism. Hyperandrogenism triggers virilization, or the development of masculine characteristics in women. Women with PCOS typically experience hirsutism (excessive facial and body hair growth) and male-pattern hair loss on their head.
How to Reduce PCOS-Related Hair Loss?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal abnormality resulting from excessive androgen production by your ovaries. Studies have shown that almost 70% of women with polycystic ovary syndrome also suffer from insulin resistance.
Insulin is an anabolic hormone produced by your pancreas to help your muscle, fat, and liver cells absorb glucose from your bloodstream. Your cells need glucose to generate energy to power their metabolic functions.
Insulin resistance is when your cells do not respond to insulin signals, inhibiting your cells’ ability to take in glucose. When your cells don’t take in glucose, glucose floods your bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar.
Your pancreas produces more insulin to help cells absorb the excess sugar from your bloodstream. Excessive insulin in your bloodstream stimulates your ovaries to overproduce androgens, leading to hyperandrogenism in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome lose their hair because of higher than normal male sex hormone levels in their body, resulting in male-pattern balding.
Therapeutic interventions for polycystic ovary syndrome seek to moderate insulin synthesis and lower androgen production to reduce the severity of PCOS symptoms. The following treatment options will reduce insulin or androgen levels in your body, minimizing PCOS-related hair loss:
Almost 80% of women with polycystic ovary syndrome are overweight or obese. Being overweight increases your risk for insulin resistance, which can make your PCOS symptoms much worse. Therefore, losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy weight can help you reduce the severity of PCOS symptoms.
Multiple studies have shown that losing excess weight reduces excessive androgen production by your ovaries, which consequently reduces the symptoms of hyperandrogenism, such as male-pattern hair loss. A Cochrane review of six studies analyzing the effects of weight loss on women with PCOS found weight reduction to be an effective therapy for treating hyperandrogenism.
If you are overweight and suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, you must try to lose the excess weight in a healthy and gradual manner to minimize hair loss caused by hyperandrogenism.
Reducing your caloric intake and increasing your physical activity can help you lose excess weight gradually and steadily.
The recommended caloric intake for healthy weight loss is 1,500 calories per day for adult women. On 1,500 calories per day, you will lose one to two pounds per week. Aim for no more than four to eight pounds of weight loss per month. Losing excess weight gradually and slowly will help you keep the weight off for a longer duration.
Metformin is an anti-diabetic medication that is used to reduce insulin sensitivity and hyperandrogenism in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Insulin plays an important role in regulating ovarian function. Excessive insulin production stimulates your ovaries to overproduce androgens, resulting in hyperandrogenism and its associated symptoms, such as male-pattern hair loss.
Studies have shown Metformin to be very effective at reducing body weight, decreasing insulin resistance, and improving insulin sensitivity. In patients with polycystic ovary syndrome, Metformin consumption for six months reduced circulating androgen levels by up to 50%, and considerably reduced hyperandrogenism’s symptoms.
Metformin is an effective medication for decreasing insulin resistance, and reducing hyperandrogenism’s symptoms, such as male-pattern hair loss in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Birth Control Pills
If you wish to treat polycystic ovary syndrome, and do not want to become pregnant, you can consult with your OB-GYN for obtaining the appropriate hormonal contraceptives for treating your condition.
Consuming birth control pills can help lower androgen and increase female sex hormone levels in your body, which helps reduce hyperandrogenism and its associated symptoms. Most birth control pills contain the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which, when consumed, help balance the levels of male and female sex hormones in your body, reducing hair loss caused by hyperandrogenism.
Women experiencing male-pattern hair loss caused by hyperandrogenism can reduce their hair loss by using topical or oral antiandrogen medications. Antiandrogen medications, such as spironolactone, flutamide, and finasteride, can be used to alleviate hyperandrogenism in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
These medications reduce androgen levels in your body, reducing hyperandrogenism’s symptoms, such as acne, hirsutism, and male-pattern hair loss. Antiandrogen medication must be consumed with birth control pills to prevent pregnancy while on the treatment, as antiandrogen medications can impair the sexual development of a male fetus.
Laparoscopic Ovarian Drilling
Laparoscopic ovarian drilling is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that prevents your ovaries from producing androgens. The surgical procedure uses a surgical needle or laser beam to damage androgen-producing tissue surrounding your ovaries. The damaged androgen-producing tissues can no longer make androgens, resulting in decreased androgen production by your ovaries.
Laparoscopic ovarian drilling is an effective medical treatment for reducing hyperandrogenism in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. A reduction in the production of androgens by your ovaries reduces the severity of hyperandrogenism-related hair loss.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age, causing hyperandrogenism and virilization. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, maintaining an ideal body weight, and consuming medication to lower your androgen levels can help you reduce the severity of polycystic ovary syndrome’s symptoms, resulting in decreased PCOS-related hair loss.