Even though polycystic ovary syndrome is very common, millions of women with the condition are still undiagnosed. One of the reasons for this is that symptoms of PCOS can go unnoticed for a long time, and they don’t always seem to be related to one another.
Of course, this is tricky, because a PCOS diagnosis relies in part on a healthcare provider observing certain symptoms in a patient.
What’s a woman to do? It’s best to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of PCOS, and to speak to your healthcare provider if you’ve experienced, in general, two or more of the symptoms that are commonly attributed to PCOS. Your provider can refer you to a specialist, or take some tests to see if PCOS is a possibility.
The following are some important signs and symptoms of PCOS.
- Periods: Many women with PCOS have abnormal menstrual periods. Their periods are often irregular, heavy, or absent.
- Hair: Because they have high levels of androgen hormones, women with PCOS may grow excess hair on their body or on their face (a condition known as hirsutism). Other women experience hair loss, similar to male-pattern baldness, on their scalp.
- Skin: High levels of androgen hormones also cause some skin-related symptoms. Skin problems related to PCOS can include excess skin tags, patches of dark skin around the body, dandruff, oily skin, and acne.
- Mood: Mood changes, anxiety, and depression can all be symptoms of PCOS.
- Sleep: Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which a person pauses while breathing during sleep, is a complication of PCOS that many women report.
- Weight: PCOS is strongly linked to insulin resistance, and many women with PCOS have high amounts of insulin in their body. This can cause them to experience weight problems. It’s not uncommon for women with PCOS to have trouble losing weight, and be especially susceptible to gaining weight, particularly around their midsection.
The symptoms described above don’t always indicate the presence of PCOS. However, if women notice two or more symptoms, PCOS is a possibility and should be ruled out by a healthcare professional.
The idea of a PCOS diagnosis might seem daunting, but being diagnosed is the first step towards treating symptoms, reducing the risk of future complications, and living a fuller, healthier life.
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Melissa Conrad Stöppler. “Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS, POS, POD, Stein-Leventhal Syndrome).” MedicineNet. MedicineNet, Inc., Feb 4 2015. Web.