Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the name given to a hormonal disorder where a multiple number of cysts are found in the ovaries.
This disorder can cause anovulation (no ovulation); irregular menstruation/or amenorrhea (no menstruation); acne; obesity; hirsutism (excessive hair growth) and pelvic/abdominal pain.
Western medicine treatments generally involve either hormone treatment such as the contraceptive pill, pain therapy or surgery.
Chinese medicine can be of benefit to PCOS because unlike Western medicine treatment, it differentiates individuals into specific patterns (refer to the Diagnosis page). Depending on the pattern type, this will determine the type of treatment, whether it involves acupuncture, herbal medicine or both.
In Chinese medicine, the organs commonly involved in PCOS are the Kidney, Spleen and Liver.
These are the organ channels that are involved in blood and reproduction due to their ability to produce and store qi (energy), blood and essence (a substance in Chinese Medicine important for longevity and reproduction).
PCOS is an imbalance within these organs and channels. Underlying causes for this imbalance are qi and blood stagnation; phlegm accumulation; kidney deficiency and liver fire.
Qi and Blood Stagnation
Qi and blood stagnation can readily be described as a blockage of the flow of qi and blood. In the different channel areas, stagnation can be the result of imbalances in the body such as deficiency or excess of qi or blood. Qi and blood stagnation can also be caused by emotional upset, improper diet, illnesses such as colds or flu as well as body traumas such as cuts and sprains.
Signs and symptoms of qi stagnation are irritability/agitation, sighing, pain that moves rather than fixed in a specific area, chest/rib tightness or pain, palpable masses, blue sublingual (under tongue) veins.
Signs and symptoms of blood stagnation can include stabbing, fixed pain, petechiae (red/purple spots on body), bleeding with clots, palpable masses, purple/black sublingual veins.
Phlegm accumulation arises from a Spleen deficiency. The Spleen together with the Stomach are the organs involved in digestion. Through proper food intake and processing, the Spleen transforms this intake into blood and qi.
When this cycle becomes sluggish through improper diet or lack of exercise, the Spleen can become deficient which can then in turn become‘damp’ and cause phlegm to accumulate. Phlegm can build up as masses such as cysts.
Signs and symptoms of phlegm accumulation can include mucous in vaginal discharge or expectorant (coughing up), chest tightness, cloudy thinking, poor memory and loose or sticky stools.
The Kidneys are the source of our prenatal qi and store our essence. Kidneys are also important for keeping the fluids and uterus warm and separating pure fluids from the impure/waste. When there is an imbalance of kidney qi there can be deficiency of yin or yang.
When Kidney yang is deficient the heat of the body is reduced. One who experiences feeling cold, especially at night, can have sore dull aches around the lower back, knees and ankles. The cold can then invade the
reproductive channels affecting blood and qi flow resulting in slow, sluggish movement. When blood and qi build
up in areas it can cause masses to form and pain.
When kidney yin is deficient there is a lack of blood and body fluids. This deficiency can thicken the remaining fluids causing phlegm and masses.
Signs and symptoms can include dry mouth and skin, feeling hot at night, disturbed sleep, dizziness, tinnitus (ear ringing) and amenorrhea (lack of menstruation).
Liver fire arises from an underlying chronic stagnation that over time builds up pressure and creates heat which rises. This fire consumes yin and body fluids depleting the source necessary for reproductive function. The
underlying stagnation is also impeding the flow of qi and blood which again can result in masses and pain.
Signs and symptoms include chest tightness, breast tenderness, constipation, headaches, emotional stress (easy agitation), vertigo, tinnitus, dry/itchy eyes, rib pain/tenderness.
Of course no matter which pathology you may find yourself relating to, it’s important to remember that the body as a whole doesn’t work as separate organs or functions. So it is common to have a number of these patterns especially as after time one disharmony will lead to another.
Pattern differentiation can be diagnosed in accordance to your signs and symptoms as well as tongue and pulse diagnosis. Once a pattern has been established, treatment can begin, with the most effective being a combination of herbal medicine and acupuncture.
Each treatment is specifically tailored to each individual because of these differing patterns, which is one of the major differences between Chinese medical and Western medical diagnosis and treatment.