Spironolactone: Will this Anti-Androgen Drug Really Treat Your PCOS
Has your doctor recommended taking the anti-androgen drug, Spironolactone, to address some of your symptoms resulting from your Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS ?Like many of the five to ten percent of women of childbearing age who are affected by this disorder, you were likely discouraged when you found out that there is no definitive cure for your newly diagnosed condition. Even worse, there’s very little consensus on which treatment works best for this hormonal imbalance called PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Spironolactone, commonly marketed as Aldactone, is a drug primarily used to treat other conditions, but may be prescribed to women with PCOS who suffer from an imbalance of sex hormones. While small quantities of male sex hormones are normal in women, we frequently find unusually high levels of male sex hormones in women with PCOS . High male hormones cause common PCOS symptoms such as hirsutism and acne. Spironolactone reduces male hormone levels, and has proven effective in lessening excess facial and body hair in 70% – 80% of women. But Spironolactone has no effect on some of the most damaging symptoms of PCOS , such as irregular periods or weight gain, and may even aggravate some symptoms.
Spironolactone is associated with a number of troublesome side effects, some of which can be quite serious. Additionally, Spironolactone does not treat the root cause of PCOS : insulin resistance . Thus, PCOS symptoms will never be fully eliminated solely by Spironolactone. The Insulite Laboratories’ Five Elements System addresses PCOS ’s root cause with lifestyle changes, supplementation, and ongoing support.
Navigating through all the information about PCOS can be overwhelming and time-consuming. The tabs above contain more detailed information about Spironolactone. But we know how busy you are! If you’re ready to find out how the Insulite Laboratories system can help with your symptoms, click here to find out what you can expect.
So what symptoms of PCOS does Spironolactone treat? Spironolactone is most often prescribed for symptoms relating to high levels of male sex hormones, or androgens (sometimes referred to as Functional Androgen Excess). These include hirsutism (excessive growth of facial and/or body hair), baldness or thinning hair, oily skin and acne, as well as other PCOS skin problems.
It is this presence of excessive androgens (and the resulting effects) that may lead your doctor to recommend Spironolactone as a potential option. Spironolactone can address the relationship between insulin and androgen excess, and is particularly useful with hirsutism (excess and abnormal hair growth in women) and acne. Spironolactone reduces androgen levels, and is proven effective in lessening excess facial and body hair in 70% – 80% of women.
Like many pharmaceutical treatments, the range of effectiveness of Spironolactone is limited. For example, it has no effect on weight gain, irregular menstruation, or other prominent PCOS symptoms. This is because most pharmaceuticals treat the signs or symptoms of the disorder and not its true, underlying cause, namely, insulin resistance . That is why these options usually have a limited range of effectiveness, since the main reason for your PCOS disorder is still untreated.
So you doctor has suggested Spironolactone as a treatment option for your PCOS . What exactly is this drug, and how does it function in the body? Is this the right PCOS treatment for you?
Spironolactone is a diuretic, meaning a drug which gets rid of excess salt and water in the body through increased formation and elimination of urine. As such, this drug is often used to control high-blood pressure, congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver and kidney disease.
Spironolactone is the generic name for this drug and sometimes it’s simply referred to as Spiro; the brand name is typically Aldactone. There other trade names this drug is marketed and/or sold under and they include:
- Novo-Spiroton (Canada)
Spironolactone also has an anti- androgen effect (as a synthetic steroid) because it reduces the body’s production of testosterone and also blocks the testosterone receptors. As such, your doctor may prescribe Spironolactone to specifically address your androgen levels; and in turn your possible symptoms of male-pattern hair growth (hirsutism), hair loss (called androgenic alopecia and usually referred to as female pattern baldness) and acne. About 70% to 80% of women with PCOS see a reduction in excess hair growth after taking Spironolactone. However, it may take up to 6 months of daily use to see full results.
While this pharmaceutical remains a common treatment option for women with PCOS (sometimes referred to as Chronic Anovulatory Syndrome), you should know this drug is primarily used to improve your cosmetic appearance and not your specific disorder of PCOS . The chief effect of Spironolactone is to block the effects of androgens; in other words, the symptoms (or effects) caused by too much androgen in your system, such as excessive hair growth and/or hair loss and acne. This drug does not – and cannot – address or help alleviate your overall PCOS or other PCOS -related symptoms.
When considering whether or not to take Spironolactone to address your androgen-related PCOS symptoms, you should be aware of the following cautions regarding this drug, in order to avoid potentially dangerous complications:
- Potassium supplementation and salt substitutes (containing potassium) should not be taken while taking Spironolactone as this may cause potentially high – and deadly – potassium levels in your body (a condition called hyperkalemia). Your potassium levels will need to be closely monitored, especially during the first twelve months of use and whenever the dosage is increased.
- Spironolactone can negatively affect the effectiveness of any anti-depressants you may currently be taking.
- Spironolactone should be avoided in women with either kidney or liver disease or problems.
- Do not drink alcohol if you’re taking Spironolactone.
- Spironolactone is not safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Birth control should be used while on Spironolactone.
- Spironolactone has a rather slow onset of action (possibly up to six months for full effect).
While Spironolactone has been proven to be effective – over time – in combating both hirsutism (excess hair growth) and acne in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS ), it is also important to consider the potential side effects this drug may cause in your body.
The list of potential side effects from Spironolactone is extensive and worrisome; including side effects such as: headaches, diarrhea, cramps, stomach pain, drowsiness, fatigue or lack of energy, rashes, nausea and vomiting.
Ironically – particularly for women with PCOS – this drug can also cause irregular and abnormal menstrual periods and bleeding, irregular or increased hair growth on parts of the body and scalp hair loss; all symptoms of PCOS !10 Patients should be aware that Spironolactone could aggravate some of their PCOS symptoms.
Other, more serious side effects include (but are not limited to):
- Fluid and electrolytes imbalance (including: low sodium, low magnesium and high potassium)
- Tarry black stools
- Breast enlargement and tenderness
- Confusion and/or unsteadiness
- Inability to move arms or legs
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Difficulty with breathing
- Difficulty with urination
- Rapid Heartbeat or changes in heartbeat
- Numbness, tingling, pain or burning in the hands or feet
- Pain in the upper right part of the stomach
- Flu-like Symptoms
Also, because of the effect of Spironolactone on the body’s potassium levels, your doctor should give you detailed advice for a reduced-salt (sodium) diet and daily exercise program. Avoid potassium-containing salt substitutes while you are taking this medication. Also talk with your doctor about the amount of potassium-rich foods (e.g., bananas, prunes, raisins, and orange juice) that you may have in your diet.
The good news is that if you experience any of these side effects while taking Spironolactone, they will usually go away once you stop using the drug. Whether to take Spironolactone or not is an important decision best left to you and your doctor. You must consider the many potential side effects, combined with your own current medical history, to make an informed decision.
Is Spironolactone the best treatment for your Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome symptoms pertaining to high levels of androgens (male hormones)? Before you decide whether to try this drug, you may want to know about herbal remedies for your symptoms. Supplementing with herbs may help you find relief, independently of or in addition to, pharmaceutical medications.
Below is a list of herbs commonly used to support healthy endocrine function.
Stinging Nettle (root) – Increases sex hormone-binding globulin.
Flax Seed – Supports estrogen metabolism, which increases the production of protective estrogen metabolites and increases sex hormone-binding globulin.
Adrenal Tissue (bovine) – Contains specific amino acids to supply growth, balance and repair factors of the adrenals.
Saw Palmetto (berries) – a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor impedes testosterone conversion and reduces circulating testosterone (androgens).
Vitex Agnus Castus (Chaste tree berry) – Improves menstrual regularity, supports luteal phase of menstrual cycle and addresses hyperprolactinemia.
Addressing Your PCOS Through Lifestyle Changes
What’s important to remember about PCOS is that it’s not fundamentally about the individual symptoms, like excess hair growth (hirsutism), acne, infertility or even weight gain. In order to effectively address the disorder of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS , you need to target and address the root of the problem, namely, insulin resistance . Once your insulin resistance is effectively addressed, you’ll soon see your PCOS symptoms lessen.
The solution to addressing or even reversing your insulin resistance is embarking on a healthier lifestyle. A healthier lifestyle includes proper nutrition, regular exercise and using appropriate, all-natural supplements, all parts of the Insulite Laboratories’ Five Elements System. These are safe, effective and natural solutions to your IR, and in turn, many of your PCOS symptoms.
If you are suffering from and with the difficult symptoms from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, please don’t lose hope! Use our resources here at Insulite Labs. We are pioneering the field of natural, lifestyle-based remedies for PCOS (and other insulin resistance -related conditions). You will find our educational resources, blog, forum and support groups – and our natural PCOS System – invaluable in your journey back to optimal health!
“insulin resistance and Pre-Diabetes,” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, October 2008, http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/insulinresistance/, (30 September 2011).
“insulin resistance Symptoms, Causes, Treatment,” MedicineNet, 2011, http://www.medicinenet.com/insulin_resistance/page2.htm#toce, (30 September 2011).
“Spironolactone (Aldactone),” MedicineNet.com, 17 December 2008, http://www.medicinenet.com/spironolactone/article.htm, (30 September 2011).
The Insulite PCOS System is not intended to be medical treatment, nor is information on this website intended to be a substitute for the advice or care of a health-care practitioner. The Insulite PCOS System is a combination of nutritional supplementation and lifestyle programs intended to help individuals better manage their health and wellbeing. Consult a health-care practitioner before beginning the Insulite PCOS System. Because of ongoing research, clinical experience, and the rapid accumulation of information relating to the subject matter discussed on this website, the website’s users are advised to carefully review and evaluate the information on this website and continue to expand and broaden their knowledge of new information as it becomes available on this website and elsewhere. The use or application of the information contained on this website is at the sole discretion and risk of the user.
Since June 2008, Insulite Laboratories and Insulite Health has supported more than 2.4 million women through the Insulite PCOS System, through this website, through emails providing information and support, through consultations with our Consulting & Advisory Team, through telephone conference calls, through online webinars, through published articles, and most recently, through social media community building and support efforts. Insulite Laboratories and Insulite Health are singularly dedicated to improving the lives of women with PCOS and conditions resulting from Insulin Resistance.