The Top Signs Of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Published on 09/09/20

PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a health problem that affects one in ten women during her childbearing ages. 

Although it is common, it can cause hormonal and metabolism problems that go unnoticed until a woman tries to get pregnant and can’t. Which means most women find out they have PCOS in their 20s and 30s, however, it can develop throughout any of her puberty years. 

PCOS causes an imbalance of reproductive hormones which can make becoming pregnant extremely difficult or make a woman infertile depending on the woman herself. In fact, polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. When PCOS is developed, many small fluid-filled sacs grow inside the ovaries. 

Poly meaning, many. 

So, many cysts to break down the translation. 

When the sacs, which are follicles, contain an immature egg, the egg never actually matures enough to start ovulation in a woman’s cycle. Without ovulation, a woman cannot conceive. 

Many women of all races and ethnicities are subject to developing PCOS and especially higher if a woman has a mother, sister, or aunt with PCOS or suffering from obesity. 

What Causes PCOS?

The exact causes for PCOS are unknown but what scientists do know is that some factors play a heavier role than others. Genetics play a major role as well as the chemistry of specific hormones in the body. Specifically androgens and insulin. 

High levels of androgens or otherwise referred to as the male hormones (including testosterone), can cause the development of male traits. Male-pattern baldness, thinning hair, or too much hair that develops on the face, chin, or other places of the body where males normally develop hair. This is called hirsutism, which affects about 70% of women with PCOS

In addition to hormone levels, metabolism is affected by high levels of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the food you consume get converted to energy. High levels of insulin can cause insulin resistance which makes the body’s cells unresponsive or less sensitive to insulin. This creates higher blood levels than the average woman. This can create a pre-diabetic patient. Or affect women with a history of diabetes, unhealthy living styles, or a lack of physical activity.

 

Top Symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome:

Skin tags: excess skin flaps that tend to show up around the neck area or armpits

Acne or Oily Skin: Normally occurring around the chest, upper back, and face
Irregular menstrual cycle: some women with PCOS stop having a period, some have missed periods, or some may come more often, every 21 days or more

Heavy Bleeding: the lining of the uterus builds up a lot longer of a time which makes the period heavier than normal when the lining sheds. 

Headaches: triggered by hormones in women

Hirsutism: some women develop hair on parts of the body that men develop hair: chest, face, and back being the most common

Thinning hair: male-pattern baldness or hair loss on the scalp

Darkening of the skin: which occur around the groin, under the breasts or around the neck creases

Weight gain: or difficulty losing weight due to insulin resistance

Infertility: due to reproductive hormonal imbalances

 

Symptoms From Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Linked To Other Health Problems

PCOS can be the underlying culprit to other developing health issues:

Depression and Anxiety: a common result of hormonal imbalance and women with PCOS

Endometrial Cancer: increased risk of endometrial cancer that develop from problems with ovulation, insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes

Diabetes: studies show more than half of women with PCOS will develop diabetes or pre-diabetes before 40.
Unhealthy Cholesterol: Women with PCOS often have higher levels of bad cholesterol and low levels of good cholesterol which raises a women’s risk of heart disease

Sleep Apnea: women that suffer from obesity or being overweight can also suffer from sleep apnea that can also raise your risk of heart disease and diabetes. 

High Blood Pressure: women with PCOS are at higher risk than women without PCOS to have high blood pressure which also contributes to stroke and heart disease. 

The biggest insecurity for women aside from the aesthetic symptoms of PCOS is infertility. Having PCS doesn’t mean pregnancy is impossible. It just means it is a longer process and sometimes a little harder to manage. PCOS is treatable by interfering with the reproductive hormone imbalances that affect the growth and release of the eggs during ovulation. 

Talking to your doctor about your specific protocol can help give you options on how to treat PCOS for pregnancy.  

Unfortunately there is no single test to diagnose women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. But there are other tests that can be taken to rule out the possibility or narrow down the symptoms to be symptoms developed by PCOS.

Aside from your medical and family history, your doctor may provide different tests:

Blood Tests: blood tests can check your hormone levels. More specifically for your male hormones or androgen levels. There are other hormone diseases that can also be a cause for hormone imbalance that PCOS can be mistaken for.

Physical Exams: checking for extra hair on your body or hair loss, or skin discoloration may be the first and one of the many physical signs of PCOS. As well BMI, blood pressure and body condition.

Pelvic Ultrasounds: an ultrasound to check the ovaries for cysts or the lining of the womb

Pelvic Exams: these check to see if you have any male traits such as enlarged body parts or swollen ovaries.

Even in this advanced day and age, there are no cures for PCOS. All symptoms are treated as-is based on your exams and what your healthcare provider finds. The majority of women are recommended birth control or a form of birth control to help with irregular cycles, lower the risk of cancer, and improve other symptoms like acne or hirsutism. 

Anti-androgen medicines are not approved by the FDA but are known to help with hair loss and body hair growth. 

The most common PCOS medication is Metformin. Normally used to treat type 2 diabetes, also not approved by the FDA, but known to improve women’s PCOS symptoms by lowering blood sugar and androgen levels, start ovulation, and lowering BMI.

For women trying to get pregnant, weight loss, IVF, and surgery can aid in helping women get pregnant even with PCOS. However, women with PCOS during pregnancy may be at a higher risk of a miscarriage, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes. 

Popular opinions on polycystic ovarian syndrome suggest a few myths that have been dispelled in the last few years.

Losing weight will cure your PCOS. Although losing weight can help reduce symptoms and aid in pregnancy, managing these symptoms do not mean an end-all cure. Which also suggests that PCOS only affects overweight women. Although  many women who have PCOS are overweight, being overweight can make PCOS worse. 

Another myth is that with PCOS, pregnancy is impossible. Although it does make getting pregnant more difficult, that doesn’t mean impossible. Especially for everyone. Talk to yoru doctor about fertility treatments and what works best for you and your body. PCOS is a common condition that is rarely talked about but not rare. Most women are diagnosed incorrectly which makes them unaware of their condition.

For the last myth, no, you didn’t do anything to cause your condition. PCOS and how and why it happens is unknown. But the factors that are known mean one thing is certain, you are not the cause of PCOS and it’s condition. However, you can be the cure. Kind of. More or less, given the power to manage the symptoms and live a normal life beyond PCOS. 

Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine in NYC

Many women have PCOS and have no idea they do. Up to 70% of women have no idea of this condition and how they’re being affected. If you are having irregular monthly periods, trouble getting pregnant, or any other symptom that might be an underlying sign of PCOS. 

Talk to our team by phone or book an appointment online to get started. Call one of our six convenient NYC locations or schedule a video consultation online today. Come visit your NYC Maternal and Fetal Medicine Specialists for the safest possible care for you.