Spironolactone for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
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How It Works
Spironolactone is a diuretic, which gets rid of excess salt and
water in the body. It also reduces
androgen levels in women with
polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Why It Is Used
Spironolactone reduces androgen levels, which reduces male-pattern
hair growth (hirsutism), hair loss, and acne for women with PCOS.
Spironolactone used alone can cause irregular bleeding and could
cause problems if used during pregnancy. For these reasons, it is usually taken
along with birth control pills. It is used to control irregular menstrual
bleeding and to reduce hirsutism.
How Well It Works
About 70% to 80% of women with PCOS see a reduction in excess hair
growth after taking spironolactone. It may take up to 6 months of daily use to
be fully effective.1
Side effects from spironolactone may include:
- Irregular menstrual periods, with higher doses
of the medicine.
- Scalp hair
- Nausea or fatigue, with higher doses of the
- Cramping, diarrhea.
- Drowsiness, lack of
- Headache, confusion.
Side effects go away when you stop using spironolactone.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference
is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Unless your doctor advises it and is monitoring you carefully, do
potassium supplements when using spironolactone. Doing
so may cause excessive potassium levels.
Your doctor may not recommend spironolactone if you have
kidney problems. This is because it affects how your
kidneys get rid of potassium.
Use birth control when using spironolactone.
Spironolactone is not safe for use during pregnancy. It has been reported to
cause a change in the genitals of a male
fetus, although this is rare.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Huang I, et al. (2007). Endocrine disorders. In JS
Berek, ed., Berek and Novak's Gynecology, 14th ed., pp.
1069-1135. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.