PCOS And Acne

Most women arrive at the doorstep of adulthood able to leave the problem of acne behind. For the four to ten percent of women who will experience PCOS, freedom from the "teenage curse" will be something they crave but struggle to attain. Since the type of acne associated with PCOS is different from normal acne, conventional treatments may not work. There are also some dietary changes a woman can make which can help the skin condition and hopefully make life with PCOS just a little easier.

How A Breakout Of Acne Occurs In Women With PCOS

Acne occurs when oil, bacteria, and skin cells get trapped in the pores of the skin. Women with PCOS experience high levels of male hormones, called androgens, and as a result have increased levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a metabolite of testosterone. The presence of DHT in the system means an increase of glandular oil production which can lead to clogged pores. Bacteria can easily flourish in these pores and when the bacteria and oil mix with dead cells, pimples result. Although mostly evident on the face, women with PCOS experience pimples on the jaw line, chest and back as well.

Another factor women with PCOS have to contend with is that the syndrome causes insulin resistance. Insulin resistance not only prevents ovulation, it also increases androgen levels which in turn elevate DHT levels and cause acne and hirutism. Hirutism is the irregular growth of hair in places women don't want hair to grow.

The Most Common Treatments For Acne Control

Some of the most common prescription treatments for acne in women suffering from PCOS is spironolactone (Aldactone) and birth control pills. Spironolactone is a blood pressure medication which has been shown to be very effective in reducing acne, whether used on its own or in combination with oral contraceptives. Spironolactone blocks aldosterone hormones, which are chemically similar to testosterone, and raise blood pressure. As it blocks the testosterone-like hormones, acne symptoms are relieved. Birth control pills work the same way by reducing the level of testosterone in the body.

Metformin is prescribed for women with insulin resistance and is used for fertility treatments as well. It works to regulate the insulin levels and in so doing normalizes the hormones to lower androgen levels. All of these medications have side effects and it is important that a woman be made aware of the negative effects of these drugs before embarking upon a regimen for acne control. Each medication works differently on each individual and what is effective for one may not work for another. There are also herbal remedies available to address the issue of acne, so there is a lot to check out before finding the right one.

Eliminating Certain High Glycemic Foods Helps Too

When it comes to diet, both dairy and refined carbohydrates have been shown to affect acne in women with PCOS. More insulin is produced when foods with a higher glycemic index are consumed. These foods raise the level of blood sugar which increases androgens that contribute to the production of sebum. Cows' milk contains various hormones that can be broken down into DHT. Much of the milk on the market is produced from pregnant cows, which means an extra dose of DHT. Consuming large quantities of milk will increase insulin-like growth factor 1 which contributes to acne. The bright side is that neither chocolate nor pizza seems to affect acne.


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