Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal endocrine disorder that affects the menstrual cycle, often resulting in anovulation (not ovulating) during a woman's childbearing years. PCOS can have a significant impact on a woman's physical and emotional health and can also affect fertility. Here is a detailed overview of PCOS symptoms and risks:
Symptoms of PCOS:
- Irregular periods or absence of periods
- Heavy, prolonged menstruation
- Excessive hair growth on the face, neck, buttocks, and chest
- Male pattern baldness
- Hair loss (alopecia)
- Skin issues such as acne, psoriasis, skin tags, etc.
- Mood swings
- Weight gain, which is often not due to more food choices than excessive food intake
- Weight gain in belly
- Inflammation which may cause brain fog, joint pain, aches, and fatigue
- Glucose intolerance
- Patched, dark skin on areas such as thighs, underarms, nape, etc.
- Infertility - difficulty becoming pregnant
- Abdominal pressure and pain
- Pregnancy complications- including miscarriage, premature birth, preeclampsia, etc.
Risks Associated with PCOS:
- Diabetes or pre-diabetes: It is estimated that more than half of women suffering from PCOS will develop the disease by the age of 40. Diabetes is so serious that it adversely affects health more than almost anything else.
- Cardiovascular disease and heart attack: Carrying around unhealthy weight can raise anyone's risk of cardiovascular disease. However, compounded with other PCOS-related problems, women with polycystic ovary syndrome have a 4 to 7 times higher chance of having a heart attack.
- Endometrial cancer: A natural buildup occurs monthly on the uterus lining (endometrium) which is sloughed off during menstruation. Infrequent periods can result in an accumulation, leaving PCOS sufferers three times more likely to develop endometrial cancer that can occur as a result of this surplus.
- Abnormal lipids: Insulin resistance, too much body fat, and the production of excessive androgens can wreak havoc on the delicate balance between good and bad cholesterol.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: This is a dangerous condition of abrupt breathing cessation during sleep, characterized by snoring, gasping, choking, or continual awakening. It can lead to serious issues such as hypertension, cardiovascular problems, sleep deprivation, etc. Being overweight and additional male hormones contribute to the condition.
- Hypertension: PCOS-related symptoms like obesity and hormonal imbalance will often lead to hypertension.
- Metabolic syndrome: Women with PCOS are at higher risk for having this if they have two or more of the risks such as obesity, high blood sugar or increased blood pressure.
- Breast cancer: Though it is not proven that PCOS causes breast cancer, PCOS sufferers with a family history of it are more susceptible to the disease than those without.
In addition to these risks, women with PCOS may also experience psychological and emotional issues such as anxiety and depression. These conditions can be exacerbated by the hormonal imbalances and other physical symptoms of PCOS.
How is PCOS Diagnosed?
PCOS can be diagnosed by an OBGYN through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.
The diagnostic criteria for PCOS have been established by different medical organizations such as the Rotterdam criteria or the Androgen Excess and PCOS Society criteria.
The Rotterdam criteria requires the presence of any two of the following three features:
- Irregular or absent menstrual periods
- Clinical or biochemical evidence of hyperandrogenism (elevated levels of male hormones)
- The appearance of multiple small cysts on the ovaries as detected by ultrasound
The Androgen Excess and PCOS Society criteria require the presence of hyperandrogenism and/or ovarian dysfunction (irregular menstrual cycles and/or the presence of polycystic ovaries)
To diagnose PCOS, a doctor will typically perform a physical examination to assess for signs of androgen excess, such as acne, excess hair growth, and hair loss. They may also ask about your menstrual history, weight changes, and any other symptoms you may be experiencing. Laboratory tests may be ordered to check hormone levels, such as testosterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Imaging tests such as an ultrasound may also be performed to evaluate the ovaries and uterine lining.
It's important to note that PCOS is a complex and often difficult condition to diagnose, and different healthcare providers may have varying approaches. Therefore, it's important to consult with an OBGYN or Endocrinologist that specializes in PCOS. if you suspect you have PCOS, as they can provide a proper evaluation and diagnosis.
PCOS is a complex and challenging disorder. However, it is manageable and troubling symptoms can be helped with proper treatment, lifestyle changes and support.
For More PCOS Information, Education and Support:
Visit the main PCOS Ultra Support website page: