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Acupuncture May Reduce Symptoms to this Hormone Disorder E-mail
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acupunctureGetting pregnant with her first child was difficult, but when Rebecca Killmeyer of Charlottesville, Va. experienced a miscarriage during her second pregnancy, she wasn't sure if she would ever have another baby. When she decided to enter a study testing the impact of acupuncture on women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at the University of Virginia Health System, she came out with a miracle.

"To our great surprise we were blessed with a third pregnancy during the PCOS study," said Killmeyer. "I'm absolutely certain the acupuncture treatments helped me ovulate regularly, which allowed me to become pregnant."

Lisa Pastore, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UVA Health System and principle researcher of the study, was hoping for results like this. Her goal has been to help women with polycystic ovary syndrome have regular menstrual cycles. Polycystic ovary syndrome causes a hormonal imbalance, interfering with ovulation and ultimately, fertility. With several women in the study reporting pregnancies, Pastore believes that acupuncture could be an important alternative, non-drug therapy for women with this disorder.

"Over the last year we have seen women who never had a regular menstrual cycle start having regular periods. We can also boast several pregnancies since the study began," said Pastore. "Now we would like to recruit more people to the study in order to complete the study. It is important for research to have enough participants to ensure that the results are scientifically credible and not due to chance."

Scared and skeptical was how Killmeyer described her initial feelings towards the experimental treatment, but soon her worries gave way to relaxation.

"When I saw those tiny little needles coming at me I thought to myself, 'I didn't sign up for this!' but I tried it and after a few minutes I was asleep on the table," Killmeyer said. "The sessions were completely refreshing after awhile."

Killmeyer learned of her polycystic ovary syndrome in 2005. Over the past five years she did not have regular, monthly periods. One month after she started acupuncture treatments she got a period and for the next three months, they continued.

"I had finished all my acupuncture treatments and was in the end stages of the study when I became pregnant," Killmeyer said. "We had already scheduled our follow-up appt with our fertility doctors when we found out we were pregnant."

Five percent of reproductive age women are affected by polycystic ovary syndrome

While there are many traditional drugs and therapies that manage this syndrome, this research is assessing whether acupuncture can be successful in regulating hormones and curing the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome .

About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity . The name polycystic ovary syndrome actually comes from the appearance of the ovaries in some women with the disorder — large and studded with numerous cysts (polycystic). Polycystic ovary syndrome affects about one in 10 women in the United States and is the leading cause of infertility in women. Early diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome can help reduce the risk of long-term complications, which include diabetes and heart disease.

The exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is unknown, but the condition stems from a disruption in the monthly reproductive cycle. Research suggests a link to excess insulin, the hormone produced in the pancreas that allows cells to use sugar (glucose), your body's primary energy supply. By several mechanisms, excess insulin is thought to boost androgen production by your ovaries. Studies also indicate that genetic factors may play a role in polycystic ovary syndrome.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome usually have at least several of the many signs and symptoms associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, including: Additional symptoms may include:
  • Irregular or no menstruation. This is the most common characteristic. Irregular menstruation means having menstrual cycles that occur at intervals longer than 35 days or fewer than eight times a year. The condition may begin in adolescence with the onset of menstruation, or it may appear later after a weight gain.
  • Obesity. It's estimated that about half of women with polycystic ovary syndrome are obese.
  • Skin tags. These small, excess growths of skin that are usually found on your neck or in your armpit are common in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. The ability to use insulin effectively is impaired in polycystic ovary syndrome and can result in high blood sugar levels and diabetes. Pre-diabetes is also called impaired glucose tolerance.
  • Insulin resistance.
  • Signs of excess androgen. Elevated levels of male hormones may result in physical signs, such as long, coarse hair on your face, chest, lower abdomen, back, upper arms or upper legs (hirsutism); acne; and male-pattern baldness (alopecia). However, not all women who have polycystic ovary syndrome have physical signs of androgen excess.
  • Enlarged ovaries with multiple cysts. Your doctor may detect ovarian cysts by ultrasound. However, you may have ovaries with multiple cysts but still not have polycystic ovary syndrome. And you may have polycystic ovary syndrome but have ovaries that appear normal.
  • Infertility. Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common cause of female infertility in the United States
  • Acanthosis nigricans. This is the medical term for darkened, velvety skin on the nape of your neck, armpits, inner thighs, vulva or under your breasts.

Early diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome is essential to help reduce the risk of long-term complications, such as diabetes and heart disease. Women should talk with their physician if they experience irregular, scant or no menstrual periods, are overweight, and have acne or excess facial hair growth.

About Acupuncture

Acupuncture (from Lat. acus, "needle", and pungere, "prick") or in Standard Mandarin, á˜ í¾ (zh¨¥n bi¨¡n) (a related word, á˜¾Ä (zh¨¥n ji¨³), refers to acupuncture together with moxibustion) is a technique of inserting and manipulating fine filiform needles into specific points on the body with the aim of of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning, including  naturally relieving pain. Today’s modern acupressure may also include applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.

Acupuncture originated in China and is most commonly associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Different types of acupuncture (Classical Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Vietnamese and Korean acupuncture) are practiced and taught throughout the world.

How acupuncture works according to Chinese lore is that channels of energy called meridians, run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, flow through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. When these energy channels are obstructed it is believed to cause pain and illness. The goal of acupuncture is to release these channels allowing energy to properly flow through the body and energize the tissues. It is believed that these meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.

The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system. Through either explanation, scientific or classical it is believed that the improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.  

 

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