Polycystic ovary syndrome, usually abbreviated PCOS, affects around 5 million women in the United States and is a common cause of infertility. PCOS is a complex condition that raises your risk of developing several chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and sleep apnea, among others.
The experts at Advanced Women’s Healthcare help many of their patients manage PCOS. Although there’s no cure for this syndrome, there are treatments that can lessen the impact of the symptoms and reduce your risk of developing other conditions. If you have the five signs we discuss in this blog, talk to your doctor about PCOS.
1. Irregular periods
One of the most common symptoms of PCOS is irregular menstruation. If your period happens infrequently, at irregular intervals, or lasts longer than a week, you may have PCOS.
Having fewer than nine periods in a year is considered infrequent menstruation, as is more than 35 days between periods. Abnormally heavy periods are also a common symptom of PCOS.
2. Extra hair growth
That may seem like an odd symptom, but it’s the result of having elevated levels of male hormones, called androgens, in your body. Around 70% of women with PCOS experience hair growth on their faces or in unexpected places on their body such as their chest or back. The excess hair growth is called hirsutism.
Along with hirsutism, you may also have male pattern baldness, increased muscle mass, and acne as a result of the higher levels of androgens. There are treatments that can help restore your hormonal balance and ease the symptoms associated with elevated androgens.
3. Issues with extra weight and a struggle to drop pounds
About 80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese, and about 70% have a condition called insulin resistance, which makes the development of type 2 diabetes far more likely.
The relationship between weight and PCOS is complex, and researchers don’t know if one causes the other or not. It is clear, however, that there is an association between the conditions and that your risk of several other, dangerous health issues rises drastically if you’re overweight or obese.
If you have insulin resistance, your body can’t efficiently convert the foods you eat into energy. There are medications that help your body more efficiently use the insulin it produces, and there are lifestyle changes that may help as well.
Our experts understand that weight loss can be more difficult than it seems, and we can offer research-based medical advice that may help. Losing 5-10% of your body weight can improve the symptoms of PCOS.
4. Struggle to get pregnant
If you’ve been trying to become pregnant and haven’t, it could be because you have PCOS. It’s one of the most common causes of infertility — which is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying.
When you have PCOS, your ovaries develop small fluid-filled sacs — the cysts in polycystic. Each of those cysts contains an immature egg. The eggs never mature enough to cause ovulation, and ovulation is critical in becoming pregnant.
There are treatments that can help you become pregnant if you have PCOS, including medications and surgery, depending on your situation.
5. Development of dark patches of skin
You may have darkened skin in the creases and folds on your body. For example, you may notice darkened areas on the back of your neck or along your groin. This is called acanthosis nigricans and is a result of the hormone imbalance caused by PCOS.
The symptoms of PCOS can be scary, but there are treatments that can help. If you’ve noticed any of the five signs we describe in this post, book an appointment at Advanced Women’s Healthcare.