Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder, characterized by increased levels of androgens and/or insulin, multiple ovarian cysts and menstrual dysfunction. PCOS affects women in reproductive age and it is one of the leading causes for infertility.
The exact causes for PCOS remain unclear. Two hormones- FSH and LH, produced within the pituitary gland, under the control of the hypothalamus, play essential role in the proper functioning of the ovaries. FSH stimulates the ovulation, while LH regulates the production of sex hormones from the ovaries. Patients with PCOS have increased LH and decreased FSH levels.
The most common symptoms of PCOS include amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, or irregular periods, acne, hirsutism, alopecia, conceiving problems. Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance are seen in around 70% of the patients with PCOS and they contribute for the excessive levels of androgens by blocking the synthesis of the androgenic blood transporter and by worsening the FSH/LH ratio, which causes abnormal androgenic hormones secretion and metabolism.
PCOS is usually treated with oral contraceptives. Due to the possible side effects of this treatment, such as increased risk of thrombosis, alternative medicine also plays a role in the management of PCOS. Controlled randomized studies have demonstrated that one of the most popular treatment from the Traditional Chinese medicine- the acupuncture has beneficial effects on patients suffering from PCOS. These effects include:
1. Improved regulation of the nervous system. The functions of the endocrine glands, including the ovaries, are under the control of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS), as part of the autonomic one, is proved to be hyperactive in women with PCOS. By reducing the expression of its mediators such as β-endorphins, acupuncture decreases the tone of SNS and improves the secretion of FSH an LH.
2. Decreased androgens levels. Testosterone, its metabolites as well as other sex hormones levels were decreased in patients receiving acupuncture in comparison with those treated with oral contraceptives only. As the symptoms in patients with PCOS are due to the abnormal hormonal levels, their normalization is essential for the successful curing process.
- Decreased cyst formation. The changes in neuroendocrine system, along with the balanced hormonal levels, following an acupuncture treatment course, naturally lead to improved ovarian function, including regularization of the ovulation.
As clinical trials have confirmed the positive outcomes for patients with PCOS , treated by acupuncture, this safe and easily accessible option, emerging from the East medicine, is more and more recommended even by “western” doctors.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Effect and Mechanisms of Acupuncture for Ovulation Induction
Julia Johansson, Elisabet Stener-Victorin. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 762615. 2013 Sep 2. Link