Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects almost one out of every ten women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS face hormonal imbalance and metabolic troubles that may affect their health and appearance, leading to several symptoms.
Simply put, PCOS is a medical condition that implies overproduction of male hormones, irregular menstrual cycle, and ovarian cysts. While the PCOS symptoms can overlap with many other illnesses, you can look for common signs of PCOS and get your diagnosis right away.
PCOS Signs, Symptoms and Treatment:
1. Irregular Periods
Irregular periods do not mean getting your periods two-three days early or late than your date. A normal menstrual cycle ranges between 22 and 35 days. If your period cycle span is greater than 35 days, you can say you have irregular or unpredictable periods. In women with PCOS, the reason behind irregular periods could be absent ovulation and hence a deficiency of progesterone. You may experience light or heavy periods if you have PCOS.
2. Excessive/ undesirable hair growth (Hirsutism) or in some cases Hair Loss
As women with PCOS can have a high level of androgens, women may get excessive hair growth on the face and other body parts, wherein generally, men have body hair. Women with PCOS can usually find hair on their face, chest, back, arms, toes, abdomen and thumbs. Such a condition where women find unwanted hair on their body can be referred to as hirsutism – a popular sign of PCOS. Nearly 75-80% of women with PCOS have hirsutism.
One of the signs of PCOS is suffering from hair loss. PCOS related hair loss can also be referred to as female-pattern hair loss, which also happens because of the male hormones called androgens. Women with PCOS may suffer from hair loss similar to “male pattern” hair loss, which means thinning hair on the top of the head and hairline. However, female pattern hair loss does not result in baldness, the way it happens in men.
Not much research has been done on the link between PCOS and migraine. But a study in 2019 found that PCOS and migraine are highly associated with each other. This does not mean if you have PCOS, you also have migraine. Many people have migraine but do not have PCOS. Migraines may be a sign of PCOS if:
- When other probable PCOS symptoms are particularly bad and you have headaches.
- You didn’t experience headaches until you started experiencing other PCOS-related symptoms.
- You get migraines at certain times during your menstrual cycle.
- Felt something like this before, but there’s been a shift in occurrence and possible triggers.
4. Mood Disorders
Female hormones can cause mood swings, especially during the menstrual cycle, and presumably, we all know that. It may be difficult to discern them from PCOS mood changes. However, PCOS frequently messes up your period cycle by preventing ovulation, so if you’re missing periods and experiencing mood swings, PCOS could be the one causing the problem. And apart from mood changes, PCOS is also linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Fatigue, though not common, can be one of the indicating signs of PCOS. However, it can also be a symptom of several other illnesses or lifestyle factors. So, you cannot diagnose PCOS or any other medical condition only based on the symptom of fatigue. Diagnosing diseases will only be possible by knowing the other symptoms you experience with fatigue and your lifestyle. Irregular sleeping, extra work hours, stress, lack of proper nutrition etc., are some lifestyle factors that can lead to fatigue.
6. Sweet Tooth
If you crave sweets almost all the moment, it could be due to insulin resistance, a common symptom of PCOS. Women with PCOS have elevated insulin levels in their blood. All of that insulin can interrupt the purpose of all other appetite-regulating hormones, resulting in increased hunger. Sugar and processed carbs, in particular, can cause sugar-rush-and-crash phases that end up causing even more hunger pangs. Keep an eye out for symptoms of low blood sugar to see if your cravings are insulin-related. Some symptoms to look for are:
- Anger caused by being hungry
7. Weight Gain or Difficulty Losing Weight
One of the tell-tale signs of PCOS is weight gain or finding it hard to lose weight. Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese and have an extremely slow weight loss process. It may also be simple to gain weight, particularly around the belly. Insulin resistance is perhaps most likely responsible yet again. One more function of insulin is to promote fat accumulation. Some women with PCOS gain weight even when they eat a healthy diet, avoid binge eating, and exercise daily.
Because testosterone, the primary male hormone, is the main reason for acne, elevated testosterone levels associated with PCOS can lead to breakouts you thought you’d outgrown with puberty. However, not all adult acne is caused by PCOS. You can also get acne due to hormonal fluctuations, reactions, medication side effects, stress and so on.
9. Fertility Issues
PCOS is among the most frequent causes of female infertility, so women having PCOS often find trouble carrying a pregnancy. Problems with fertility arise when there is a lack of ovulation, and PCOS can interfere with ovulation causing irregular periods. For women willing to conceive at present or future, this is the most challenging factor of PCOS. However, it’s not just PCOS that can cause infertility; there are some other reasons such as:
- Age-related fertility
- Premature menopause
- Ovarian insufficiency
Related Read: How PCOS affects Fertility in Women
PCOS does not preclude you from getting pregnant. PCOS is one of the most common, yet treatable, causes of female infertility.
Since the signs and symptoms mentioned here may be shared with other illnesses, the best is to visit your healthcare provider if you experience any such symptoms.
Your doctor may conduct blood tests, pelvic exams or ultrasound to confirm your diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, get in touch with Dr Banker for the best treatments that help you lead a healthy and active lifestyle – book your appointment now.