PCOS stands for “Polycystic ovary syndrome.” A mouthful, I know. But, what exactly does it mean to suffer from PCOS, and what are some PCOS symptoms?
As a fellow PCOS-er, I know first-hand all the ups and downs that come along with this condition. With that being said, PCOS can look SO very different on all of us. So let’s dive into some of the details. We’ll look at PCOS signs and symptoms, how you can actually get a diagnosis, and treatment options!
What Does PCOS Mean?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal and metabolic condition that affects women mostly during their reproductive years. A woman with PCOS may have trouble with their menstrual cycle. Either periods will disappear, feel like they last forever, or come totally randomly. All of this points to ovulation either occurring infrequently or not at all.
Another classic PCOS symptom is the excess production of androgenic hormones in the body. While androgens like Testosterone are regarded as male hormones, all women actually produce small amounts. Women with PCOS, on the other hand, may be overproducing androgens which can lead to symptoms like facial and body hair growth, hair loss on the head, acne, and weight gain.
PCOS can also be closely linked to insulin resistance and blood sugar issues which can contribute to even more androgen production, difficulty losing weight, cravings, and fatigue.
Last but not least, PCOS can also lead to the accumulation of fluid-filled sacs in our ovaries which we can see on an ultrasound. These sacs are commonly called “cysts” but are NOT the same type that can rupture and cause pain. These are actually small, immature, underdeveloped follicles all competing to ovulate without a “winner.”
What are The Most Frequent PCOS Symptoms?
The usual symptoms of PCOS can start as soon as a woman has her first menstrual period. However, it can also develop later in life.
While there are a lot of different PCOS symptoms, they can really vary from woman to woman. But, if you have at least 2 symptoms out of the 3 mentioned below, then it could mean that you should seek out a diagnosis from a doctor:
Excess Androgen Production or Physical Signs of Elevated Androgens – A high level of androgens (like Testosterone) are produced in a woman’s body which causes excess body and facial hair, acne, and/or hair loss on the head.
Polycystic Ovaries – Fluid-filled sacs called “cysts” develop in the ovaries and these can be seen on an ultrasound
Irregular Periods – Another classic symptom of PCOS is irregular periods. This could mean periods don’t happen often, don’t happen at all, or the bleeding feels like it never stops!
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PCOS is the leading cause of infertility. On average, this condition affects around 6% – 12% of women around the world! However, its effects are not just limited to female infertility. It is a lifelong health condition that affects different parts of your life & can require a lot of lifestyle changes.
Other Common PCOS Symptoms
The symptoms of PCOS can vary from woman to woman, but there are some common symptoms that most women experience. It is important to note that not all women with PCOS will experience all of these PCOS symptoms.
Physical PCOS Symptoms
One of the most common physical PCOS symptoms are irregular menstrual cycles. Women with PCOS may have periods or bleeding that are very light, very heavy, come too often, or don’t come at all. Other physical symptoms of PCOS include:
Acne: Acne is a common symptom of PCOS, as different hormonal imbalances can cause an increase in oil production in the skin.
Weight gain: Women with PCOS often struggle with weight gain due to insulin resistance and elevated androgens.
Unwanted hair growth: PCOS can cause an increase in androgen levels, which can lead to unwanted hair growth on the face, chest, and back.
Hair loss on the head: An increase in androgen levels can also lead to thinning hair and hair loss on the head.
Infertility: PCOS can cause menstrual irregularities and anovulation, which can make it difficult to conceive.
Emotional PCOS Symptoms
PCOS is not just a physical condition, it can also have emotional effects. Women with PCOS may experience anxiety, depression, and mood swings. PCOS can also contribute to sleep disturbances, such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
How to Get a PCOS Diagnosis?
If you are facing any of the symptoms mentioned above, then it is a good idea to contact your registered health practitioner. After taking a detailed look at your PCOS symptoms, medical conditions, and your current medications, a doctor will move toward physical and blood tests.
Normally, the following tests are carried out for the diagnosis of PCOS:
Blood Tests – With blood tests, the hormone levels, cholesterol, and glucose levels of the body are measured. A classic sign of PCOS is insulin resistance which can be checked with a blood test. For now, there’s no single PCOS blood test, but it is more of a combination of different tests.
Ultrasound – An ultrasound test is used to check for polycystic ovaries.
Using a combination of these tests, a doctor can give you an accurate diagnosis of whether you have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or not.
Health Problems Associated With PCOS
PCOS can ultimately lead to a whole host of health problems. Some of the common health problems associated with PCOS are:
Diabetes -It’s estimated around 40% of women with PCOS will go on to develop Type 2 Diabetes
Hypertension – PCOS may lead to high blood pressure, which can affect the heart, arteries, kidneys, and brain.
Sleep Apnea – This is a disorder in which a person can stop breathing during sleep.
High Cholesterol – An increase in bad cholesterol (LDL) and a decrease in good cholesterol (HDL).
Stroke – The associated high cholesterol and hypertension may lead to a heart stroke.
Mood Disorder – Hormones are also associated with our mood, and with PCOS, a woman is three times likelier to suffer from depression and anxiety.
Treatment of PCOS
The earlier you start working on treating your PCOS, the more chances you will have of preventing or delaying health problems.
The BEST treatment of PCOS involves making healthy dietary and lifestyle changes!
In addition, there are also a lot of helpful supplements that can halt symptoms like excessive hair growth and acne.
Conquer PCOS Symptoms with The PCOS Boss Academy
PCOS is a common condition that can cause a variety of physical, hormonal, and emotional symptoms but with proper diagnosis and treatment, PCOS can absolutely be managed!
If you’re struggling with your PCOS, my PCOS Boss Academy was built to help you lose weight permanently without restriction, conquer your PCOS symptoms, and take your health back into your own hands.