Spironolactone for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
spironolactone Aldactone

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 who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Why It Is Used

Spironolactone can reduce male-pattern hair growth (hirsutism), hair loss, and acne in women who have 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 out of 100 women who have 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

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Confusion.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, or lips.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Diarrhea.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Ask your doctor if you should watch the amount of potassium in your diet. Spironolactone is a potassium-sparing diuretic, so your doctor may check to make sure you do not get high potassium levels in your blood. Don't take a potassium supplement if you are taking this medicine.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. 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.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised May 14, 2012

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