Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is marked by the formation of large, fluid-filled sacs (cysts) on the ovaries. This condition can also lead to infertility, obesity and abnormal hair growth (hirsuitism). Medications including Yasmin can be used to treat the symptoms and complications of this disorder.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Physiology
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, according to Luciano Nardo, leads to elevated levels of hormones called androgens 1. Specifically, women with polycystic ovarian disease have an overactive pituitary that secretes high amounts of a hormone called luteinizing hormone. This hormone stimulates the ovaries. When present in excess, it leads to cysts being formed in the ovaries as well as elevated levels of androgens, such as estrogen.
Yasmin is a commonly used oral contraceptive. It combines a low dose of ethinyl estradiol (a synthetic form of estrogen) as well as drospirenone, which is a synthetic form of progestin. These oral contraceptives work by altering the body's hormonal levels and, as a result, can also be used in the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Oral Contraceptives and PCOS
As the Mayo Clinic explains, oral contraceptives are a commonly used treatment for polycystic ovarian syndrome 2. Oral contraceptives (such as Yasmin) use two different drugs that inhibit the production of estrogen in the body by blocking the effects of luteinizing hormone as well as another important hormone, called follicle stimulating hormone. The blocking of estrogen production helps relieve the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Unique Effects of Drospirenone
Yasmin is often prescribed to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome because it contains drospirenone. According to a 2008 article in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management ("Use of ethinyl estradiol/drospirenone combination in patients with the polycystic ovary syndrome"), drospirenone is a hormone that blocks the production of estrogen and blocks the actions of another hormone called aldosterone 3. Aldosterone is used by the body to regulate the electrolytes and water balance. The ethinyl estradiol in oral contraceptives can stimulate the production of aldosterone, leading to the body retaining more water. Drospirenone helps counteract this side effect.
Yasmin and Insulin Sensitivity
The same 2008 article in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management also discusses drospirenone as it related to insulin 3. Polycystic ovarian syndrome can lead to Type 2 diabetes because it can lead to the body being less sensitive to insulin, resulting in chronically elevated blood sugar levels. Oral contraceptives can sometimes exacerbate that effect. The article, however, notes that drospirenone doesn't appear to make patients less sensitive to insulin.