7 Classic Signs You Have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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It affects at least 10 percent of childbearing women in the United States, but many with the medical condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, don’t know they have it. Here are seven classic signs of PCOS.

1. Weird Periods

Is your menstrual cycle totally unpredictable? Maybe it comes several times each month, never seems to end, or doesn’t come at all? These signs could indicate you have PCOS. Very heavy periods with or without clots are also possible signs of it.

Why is this? PCOS is in part a reproductive disorder caused by an imbalance of sex hormones. Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of testosterone (yes, women have testosterone just like men have estrogen) which throws of levels of female sex hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle.

2. Skin Problems

Acne. Are you an adult and still getting acne? Maybe not just on your face but back and chest too?

Boils and bumps. Do you experience unsightly and sometimes foul-smelling bumps or boils under your armpits, breasts, or groin area?

All of these skin problems are a sign of PCOS and higher levels of testosterone. Treatment to reduce testosterone levels can improve these issues.

Skin tags or dark patches. Do you have skin tags or dark patches on your skin (called acanthosis nigricans) that look dirty but never come off when you scrub them? These are signs of high insulin which is associated with PCOS.

3. Hair Concerns

Losing hair on the top of your head is a major sign of PCOS. Some women with PCOS report thinning hair, male-pattern baldness or alopecia.

On the other hand, too much body hair is also a classic sign of the disease. Dark or coarse hair typically found in the central part of the body (between the breasts, belly button, groin, inner thighs, back) are signs of high testosterone and possibly PCOS.

4. Unexplained Weight Gain

Gradual or rapid weight gain (5 to 30 pounds in a few months) with no overt reason can indicate PCOS. This is especially true if most of the weight is in the abdominal or middle part of the body.

Why? Besides being a reproductive disorder, PCOS is also viewed as a metabolic disorder. High levels of insulin are present in as many as 70 percent of women with PCOS. Insulin is a powerful growth hormone. Insulin’s job in the body is to promote fat storage and weight gain.

5. Intense Cravings

Do you crave bread products, sweets or other sugary foods all the time? Do the cravings occur even after eating a meal?

Strong, almost urgent or intense cravings could be a sign of high insulin levels. Indulging in these cravings only makes insulin go up higher, resulting in more cravings and increasing the risk for type 2 diabetes. Treatment to lower insulin levels can help to reduce cravings and your risk for diabetes.

6. Not Getting Pregnant

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of trying. If you’ve not been able to get pregnant PCOS may be the reason. PCOS is the main cause of ovulatory infertility. Treating the hormone imbalance can improve ovulation, increasing your chances of conceiving.

7. Repeated Miscarriages

If you’ve suffered from miscarriages, PCOS may be to blame. It’s been suggested that due to the higher levels of testosterone and/or insulin, women with PCOS may have a higher chance of miscarriage. Talk to your doctor about treatment options that can minimize your risk of miscarriage in the future.

If you have one or more of the conditions addressed above, contact your doctor to be evaluated for PCOS or other conditions. PCOS is a condition of exclusion. This means other medical conditions that cause similar symptoms need to be ruled out before being diagnosed. Most women with PCOS are seen by several doctors before getting their diagnosis. Always trust your gut instincts and seek another opinion if you’re not satisfied with your medical care.

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Article Sources

  • Banu J, Fatima P, Sultana P, Chowdhury MA, Begum N, Anwary SA, Ishrat S, Deeba F, Begum SA. Association of infertile patients having polycystic ovarian syndrome with recurrent miscarriage. Mymensingh Med J. 2014;23(4):770-3.